English 9, Lesson 60 – The Most Memorable Moments from Booker T. Washington’s Autobiography

For the past two weeks I have been reading Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington.  So far, I am really enjoying the autobiography.  In this essay, I am going to talk about a couple moments from the book that I found memorable.

The Umbrella

Washington was called to Tuskegee, Alabama to be a teacher at a college to train teachers.  When he reached the city he realized that there was no schoolhouse for him to teach in and he was forced to make do with old barns or churches.  In the autobiography he described how bad the condition of the buildings were.  When it would rain, the rain would seep through the cracks in the roof.  He recalls how one of the older students would give up his studies to stand next to Washington with an umbrella over his head so he could continue to teach the others without getting wet.

I found this memorable because it showed how much that student admired and respected Washington. 

Buying the Plantation

After a while, the old barns and churches would not be sufficient for his lessons.  He took out a loan and bought an old plantation, which he turned into a school.  He noted how after the lessons were over the students would work on improving the main house themselves.  This was memorable for me because is showed how much the students actually wanted to learn.

Washington also wanted the students to have some experience in agriculture because at that time students would need those skills.  He wanted the students to help clear the trees from the land so they could start a farm.  However, most students were hesitant.  Many thought that doing that work would tarnish his reputation.  Washington started to clear the trees by himself and over time the other students started to help out.

This was very memorable for me because it shows a lot of things.  Firstly, it shows his how he wanted his students to have real life education and not just book education.  It also shows how he taught his students that work is not bad.

Christmas Traditions

In Chapter Nine, the last chapter I read before this essay, Washington describes the Christmas ‘traditions’ of the people of Tuskegee.  Let me say, it is not pretty.

During the last weeks of the year Washington gave the students a break from school so they could celebrate with family.  But the people of the city used these weeks to get drunk and party.  Weapons were used by everyone (and everyone was drunk).  Parents would spend all of their money on alcohol, prompting their children to run around the town asking for Christmas gifts.  Fights broke out, and overall it was violent and unsafe.  Washington was appalled by how the sacred holiday of Christmas was turned into this.

This was very memorable to me because it is so different from how people celebrate Christmas nowadays.  The fact that this actually happened all those years ago is so hard for me to imagine.


As you can see, there are quite a few memorable moments in the book.  Personally, I find it incredible that Washington was able to change his student’s mentality and attitudes after teaching them, not many teachers can do that nowadays.

Thanks for reading!

Author: sophiaelahirpc

Part-time 9th Grade student in the Ron Paul Curriculum. Full-time teen writer living in Singapore.

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