He grew up with his mother in a one-room log cabin on a plantation. He never knew his father. As a young boy, he carried 100-lb sacks of grain to the nearby mill. He would walk by the schoolhouse where he saw children his age studying. But he wasn’t allowed to go in as slaves were not allowed to read and write. At age 9, he and his mother moved to West Virginia, where he went to work in the salt furnaces with his stepfather. His mother got him a book to learn the alphabet, and he got up every morning at 4 am to study before going to work.
At age 16, he walked 500 miles to Hampton Institute in Virginia. He took odd jobs along the way, and when he got there, he convinced the administrators to let him study if he worked as a janitor to pay his tuition. He graduated in 1875 with high marks, and soon was recommended to head the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
The Light He Found
Booker T Washington (1856-1915) became a teacher, college president, author, orator, and advisor to presidents of the United States. Between 1890 and 1915, he was the dominant leader in the African- American community.
What he said:
“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.”
“Great men cultivate love … only little men cherish a spirit of hatred.”
“You can’t hold a man down without staying down with him.”
“Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way.”
“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.”