Booker T. Washington’s School and His Struggles

Booker T. Washington, educated ex-slave and advocate for the black race in the early years after slavery, was elected to establish and teach at a school in Tuskegee, Alabama. He started in a small, leaky shack with a small, leaky church. Through strategic fundraising and timely help from a friend, he was able to purchase, after a month or so, a large piece of land with an acceptable building.

From the first, Booker T. sought to teach the students not only simple education such as is taught at our modern-day schools (e.g. math, language, science, etc.), but also manual work. Through this principle, Booker T. introduced the students to farming, brick-making, furniture-making, etc. They made money by this, but the main accomplishment was the implementation within the students of the principle of ‘honor in work.’ And the school grew.

Now, fund-raising. Ughh. Fund-raising was a tedious, never-ending story for Booker T. and his co-workers. He spoke in various parts of the North and South. His wife-to-be and fellow teacher, Miss Olivia Davidson, attributed most of her time to fund-raising. They were always short of money. But without fail, enough money would be supplied through generous personages and the relentless work of Miss Davidson, to pay the bills.

In the beginning, before Tuskegee became a well-known, well-funded school, the students had to endure many hardships. Booker T. had neither money nor resources to provide them with beds or enough blankets; so in the middle of winter you would see two or three sleepless, half-frozen students hunched around a small fire under on blanket in an unsealed shack. But these things, too, passed.

Even if they didn’t have a blanket, the students each had a toothbrush. Booker T. was crazy about toothbrushes. No student was allowed into the Tuskegee school without a toothbrush. Booker T. really believed that cleanliness was next to Godliness. And in a way, it is.

So. The moral I see is this: through their trials, successes and failures, Booker T. Washington and his students succeeded in establishing a lasting educational foundation that showed that no matter how many the odds, one can always, always succeed.


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