Subordination or Liberation? The Development and Conflicting Theories of Black Education in Nineteenth Century Alabama

By Robert G. Sherer | Go to book overview
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5
BOOKER T. Washington -- INDUSTRIAL TRAINING

Booker T. Washington, the best-known president of a black normal school in Alabama, 1 was born a slave at Hale's Ford, Virginia in 1856. 2 Soon after the Civil War ended, Washington Ferguson, Washington's stepfather, sent for his family to join him in Malden, West Virginia. Ferguson put Washington to work with him in the salt-furnace, then in a coal mine. Washington next became houseboy for the mine owner's wife, Mrs. Viola Ruffner, who drilled into him almost obsessive habits of orderliness, neatness, and cleanliness. 3

Washington first became fascinated with education while carrying his master's children's books to school. In Malden he persuaded his mother to buy him a copy of Webster's spelling book and tried to teach himself to read. After prolonged pleading and promising to continue work, Washington persuaded his father to allow him to attend the new school in Malden.

After overhearing some miners discussing a black school in Virginia, Washington decided to go there. He persuaded his mother to allow him to go and set out for Hampton Institute in 1872. He entered Hampton on October 5, 1872 after passing an "entrance examination" of cleaning out a classroom. 4

Hampton began as an American Missionary Association School in 1868, but General Samuel Chapman Armstrong did not follow the standard missionary school curriculum. He based Hampton's curriculum on that of the missionary school he had known about in Hawaii. This school produced "less advanced but more solid, men" than even the other missionary school in Hawaii. Hampton stressed only English and generally elementary and industrial training. Armstrong intended to teach young people to

go out and teach and lead their people, first by example, by getting land and homes; to give them not a dollar that they can earn for themselves; to teach respect for

-45-

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