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Booker T. Washington And The Negro's Place In American Society

2150 words - 9 pages

I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed.-Booker T. WashingtonThe historical text, Booker T. Washington and the Negro's Place in American Life is a document that meticulously details the life, achievements, viewpoints, opposition and controversy of the famed civil rights figure, Booker T. Washington.Booker T. Washington was the most controversial figure in the fight for civil rights with his rise to fame in the late 1800's. Many who knew him believed that he was a clear-cut man, and he was admired as an authentic hero to black Americans, and in his later years he earned several nicknames.The soon-to-be-famous civil rights leader was born in 1858, grew up in a cabin with a dirt floor and was a slave in Franklin County (near present day Roanoke), Virginia. He grew up hearing rumors that his natural father was a white man, but they were only that, rumors. He, his brother and his sister slept on a pile of rags that their mother had laid out on the dirt floor of their cabin. After the Emancipation Proclamation was announced, his family was so stricken with poverty that he worked in salt furnaces and coal mines beginning at age nine. Booker was not allowed in school due to the color of his skin, and the closest he ever came to a school, at that time, was walking with his Masters' daughters to their school, while helping them carry their books. "I had the feeling that to get into a schoolhouse and study would be about the same as getting into paradise." (Washington, 44)When Washington was finally allowed attendance to an all black school, he thirsted for knowledge. When he was about eighteen years old, he learned of an all black college called the Hampton Institute, near Virginia's Tidewater Region, and was desperate to attend. He worked quite a few jobs just for traveling money, and when he arrived in Virginia, did custodial work at the school to pay for his room and tuition. Booker graduated in June on 1875 with high honors. Upon his return to his hometown, he was elected to teach a colored school and soon began night school and Sunday school classes.Around this time, the Ku Klux Klan was near the height of its activity. Washington realized it was their mission to crush Negro aspirations of participating in politics, though they were more cruel than most. Several churches and schools were burned, and innocent blacks were beaten, tortured, and killed. Washington nearly entered politics, but thought he could make a difference in education. In May of 1881, he took an opportunity to teach at a school for blacks in Tuskegee, Alabama.July 4, 1881 was the first day of school at Tuskegee Institute. It was a humble beginning, but under Washington's care both Washington and the school grew to be world famous. His school made lasting and profound contributions to the South and to the United States. One of his main problems was...

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