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Booker Taliaferro Washington

The following poem describes another veteran who survived to relay his account as a former enslaved person

Inspired by the book Rising up from Slavery’ by Booker T Washington, YouTube, history & culture, and Black History websites

Some of the philosophies Booker T. Washington lived by:

  1. Honesty

  2. Empathy

  3. Love

  4. Patience

  5. Loyalty

  6. Unity

  7. Self-respect

  8. Caution

  9. Self-control

  10. Be a good role model

  11. Personal responsibility

  12. Respect your elders

  13. Honour your parents.

Quotes by Booker T Washington:

  • ‘No man can bring me down so low as to hate him.’

  • 'To lift you up, lift up someone else.’

  • ‘In the sight of God there is no colour line and we want to cultivate a spirit that will make us forget that there is such a line anyway.’

  • 'We should not permit our grievances to overshadow our opportunities.’

  • ‘Great men cultivate love… only little men cherish a spirit of hatred.’

According to his book ‘Rising up from Slavery,’ ‘Booker T Washington was born enslaved,

In 1858 or 1859. (NOTE: back then the birth and historical records for black people most slave masters decided to evade),

Naturally, a breakdown of historical identity was subsequently conveyed.

Booker T and his family lived on a plantation in Franklin County, Virginia, America. Truly, what a positive path Booker paved.

Let me share with you a few smidgens about him and the outstanding example he encouraged and displayed.

As you read the contents, give thanks that you have the relative optional freedom to be lounging,

Booker T declares, ‘My life had its beginning in the midst of the most miserable, desolate, and discouraging surroundings.’

‘I was born in a typical log cabin, about fourteen by sixteen feet square. In this cabin I lived with my mother and a brother and sister till after the Civil War, when we were all declared free.’

When Booker T’s mother received the news of emancipation, her tears of relief and appreciation was evident to see.

Although Booker T’’s home was a minute cabin, it was also used as storage and the kitchen for the plantation.

The cabin had no windows or basic amenities, beds and bedding were a distant dreamful frustration.

Jane, Booker T’s mother, was the plantation cook and his absent inattentive father was a nearby plantation owner.

Beating, demeaning and raping the enslaved was common practice and part of the oppressors persona.

There were no cooking-stoves in the cabins, so Booker’s mother cooked for the whites and the enslaved using an open fireplace;

What’s more, most cabins had problematic cat flaps yet there was insufficient ventilation for humans - what a barbaric disgrace.

Booker T Quotes: ‘While the poorly built cabin caused us to suffer with cold in the winter, the heat from the open fire-place in summer was equally trying.’

Imagine a scorching sun, a 14 by 16 square foot cabin with an open fire, dirt for flooring and a cat-hole that anyone could spy in.

Booker describes the heavy workload of the enslaved and the lack of opportunity to spend time with his mother during the day.

Booker T quotes, ‘it had never occurred to me that there was no period of my life that was devoted to play.’

And of course, as an enslaved, Booker T had no legal access to schools, indeed he was desperate to read.

Undoubtedly every path to impede positive progress for black people, their oppressors endeavoured to bleed.

Nonetheless, the enslaved constantly used alternative routes to communicate and obtain political information -

And they kept a close eye on any figures and movements that had that ‘fight for the enslaved freedom’ correlation.

Booker T Quote: ‘I was required to go to the "big house" at meal-times to fan the flies from the table by means of a large set of paper fans operated by a pully. Naturally much of the conversation of the white people turned upon the subject of freedom and the war, and I absorbed a good deal of it.’

This took skilful observation and comprehensive expertise,

Fortunately, like many others, reciting information was another talent that Booker managed with ease.

Booker T Quote: I now recall the many late-at-night whispered discussions that I heard my mother and the other slaves on the plantation indulge in. These discussions showed that they understood the situation, and that they kept themselves informed of events by what was termed the "grape-vine" telegraph.’

These verbal newspapers were a useful communication tool and a widely practiced art.

Booker T Quote: Every success of the Federal armies and every defeat of the Confederate forces was watched with the keenest and most intense interest. Often the slaves got knowledge of the results of great battles before the white people received it. This news was usually gotten from the coloured man who was sent to the post-office for the mail.’

Despite desperate measures to suppress the knowledge of the enslaved, they were able to grasp every political tale.

Given the impossible demands, punishments, division and degrading, Booker T should have suffered with a noticeable low self-esteem.

However, throughout his life, Booker T’s thirst for personal development via education constantly intervened.

Booker T Quote: I had no schooling whatever while I was a slave, though I remember on several occasions I went as far as the schoolhouse door with one of my young mistresses to carry her books. The picture of several dozen boys and girls in a schoolroom engaged in study made a deep impression upon me, and I had the feeling that to get into a schoolhouse and study in this way would be about the same as getting into paradise.’

Nothing but death could have broken Booker T’s passionate determination to be successful in life.

After emancipation, despite working long hours during the day, Booker T attended his first school during the night.

Booker T’s local School education levels were too limited for him, he wanted more, and refused to allow his dream to be denied.

A few years later he travelled 500 miles to attend Hampton institution with insufficient funds or the rent for his abode when he arrived.

Booker T Quote: ‘By walking, begging rides both in wagons and in the cars, in some way, after a number of days, I reached the city of Richmond, Virginia, about eighty-two miles from Hampton. When I reached there, tired, hungry, and dirty, it was late in the night. I had never been in a large city, and this rather added to my misery. When I reached Richmond, I was completely out of money. I had not a single acquaintance in the place, and, being unused to city ways, I did not know where to go.’

Booker T Quote: ‘As to clothes, when I reached Hampton I had practically nothing. Everything that I possessed was in a small hand satchel.’ Yet Booker was not deterred!

Booker T used his example, persuasion and charisma to gain the opportunity to immerse himself in study and night work.

Despite tremendous and relentless obstacles, Booker T graduated with flying colours;

Thereafter, Booker dedicated the rest of his life to guide and educate others.

Booker T relates, ‘I took great interest in studying the life of our people there closely at that time. I found that while among them there was a large element of substantial, worthy citizens, there was also a superficiality about the life of a large class that greatly alarmed me. I saw young coloured men who were not earning more than four dollars a week spend two dollars or more for a buggy on Sunday to ride up and down Pennsylvania Avenue in, in order that they might try to convince the world that they were worth thousands. Does this sound familiar to you?

Is not this the SAME type of behaviour that some of our brothers and sisters continue to pursue?

Booker also stated, ‘In Washington I saw girls whose mothers were earning their living by laundrying. These girls were taught by their mothers, in rather a crude way it is true, the industry of laundrying. Later, these girls entered the public schools and remained there perhaps six or eight years. When the public school course was finally finished, they wanted more costly dresses, more costly hats and shoes. In a word, while their wants had been increased, their ability to supply their wants had not been increased in the same degree. On the other hand, their six or eight years of book education had weaned them away from the occupation of their mothers. The result of this was in too many cases that the girls went to the bad. I often thought how much wiser it would have been to give these girls the same amount of mental training - and I favour any kind of training, whether in the languages or mathematics, that gives strength and culture to the mind - but at the same time to give them the most thorough training in the latest and best methods of laundrying and other kindred occupations.’ Even now, how many of our people are taken in by self-destructive behaviour and glamorisations!!

I view Booker T as one of the veterans that completely sacrificed himself to help better the condition of his people;

He supported unity, adored his supporting wife, he was a loving father, selfless, compassionate and never deceitful.

Booker T Quote: ‘Not only is Mrs Washington completely one with me in the work directly connected with the school, relieving me of many burdens and perplexities, but aside from her work on the school grounds, she carries on a mothers' meeting in the town of Tuskegee, and a plantation work among the women, children, and men who live in a settlement connected with a large plantation about eight miles from Tuskegee.’

Another Booker T code of practice: ‘I have a strong feeling that every individual owes it to himself, and to the cause which he is serving, to keep a vigorous, healthy body, with the nerves steady and strong, prepared for great efforts and prepared for disappointments and trying positions. As far as I can, I make it a rule to plan for each day's work - not merely to go through with the same routine of daily duties, but to get rid of the routine work as early in the day as possible, and then to enter upon some new or advance work. I make it a rule to clear my desk every day, before leaving my office, of all correspondence and memoranda, so that on the morrow I can begin a new day of work. Make it a rule never to let my work drive me, but to so master it, and keep it in such complete control, and to keep so far ahead of it, that I will be the master instead of the servant.’ To these rules Booker paid particular observance.

As I mentioned, these are merely smidgens of Booker philosophies and accounts, smidgens that amount to a pinhead of Booker T’s life.

He faced endless obstacles throughout his years, yet he remained steadfast and upright - many truly viewed him as a spiritual light.

A SILO ON THE FARM. Students filling it with fodder corn, steam-power being used.

Here is a closing thought

Booker T Quote: The hurtful influences of the institution were not by any means confined to the Negro. This was fully illustrated by the life upon our own plantation. The whole machinery of slavery was so constructed as to cause labour, as a rule, to be looked upon as a badge of degradation, of inferiority. Hence labour was something that both races on the slave plantation sought to escape. The slave system on our place, in a large measure, took the spirit of self-reliance and self- help out of the white people. My old master had many boys and girls, but not one, so far as I know, ever mastered a single trade or special line of productive industry. The girls were not taught to cook, sew, or to take care of the house.’

Source: Legends of Tuskegee: Introductionwww.nps.gov/museum/exhibits/tuskegee/intro.htm

Booker Taliaferro Washington rose from slavery to a position of power and influence. A realist and a man of action, he became one of the most important African-American leaders of his time. He was committed to improving the lives of African-Americans after the Civil War. Washington advocated economic independence through self-help, hard work, and a practical education. His drive and vision built Tuskegee into a major African-American presence and place of learning.

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