Up from Slavery Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 36 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Up from Slavery.
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Up from Slavery Summary & Study Guide Description

Up from Slavery Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington.

Booker T. Washington is not certain of the date or location of his birth, though he believes he was born near a post office called Hale's Ford in Franklin County, Virginia. He doesn't know his father but says there were rumors that he was a white man from a nearby plantation. Washington spent his early years - from his birth in 1858 or 1859 until the end of the Civil War in 1865 - as a slave on that plantation with his mother, his brother John and his sister Amanda. He later mentions an adopted brother named James. He is known then only as Booker, though his mother named him Booker Taliaferro. It isn't until he has the opportunity to go to school that he selects Washington as his surname.

Washington learns of a school in Hampton, Virginia, for Negroes and that some deserving students are given aid with tuition. He decides that he will go there and works toward that end. In the meantime, he has worked at the salt furnaces and in the coalmines. He spends some time in the employ of a wealthy woman, Mrs. Ruffner, who pays him five dollars per month and teaches him the benefits of cleanliness. When he arrives at Hampton, dirty, disheveled and hungry, the head teacher is not certain he should be admitted. She tells him to sweep a room, which he sweeps several times and then dusts carefully. She decides that it was such a good job that she allows him admittance and offers him a job as a janitor.

He travels home one summer but is away looking for work when his mother dies. He returns after graduation as a teacher and helps his brother John through school then they help their adopted brother James. Washington spends all his time teaching but is called back to Hampton to teach and continue his own studies. He is soon put in charge of a night school as well as a program endeavoring to teach a group of Indians. Both are highly successful and Washington is recommended to oversee the establishment of a Negro school, similar to Hampton, at Tuskegee, Alabama.

Beginning with thirty students in a leaky building, he soon borrows enough money to buy a plantation property. The house had burned but the school began in a stable and hen house, using the slave cabins for student housing. They immediately begin growing crops. Over the years, Washington established a brick-making enterprise and the students completely constructed the buildings on the school grounds. In this way, students were taught the latest and best agricultural methods and a trade - including brick making and carpentry. The girls learned mattress manufacturing, bee keeping, dairy farming and homemaking skills.

Over the years, Washington's fame as an orator grows and he often solicits funding for the school from important and wealthy people. Through it all, he retains his dignity and work ethic, which he works to instill in the students at Tuskegee.

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