After the Civil War the family moved toMalden, West Virginia. Ferguson worked in the salt mines and at the age of nine Booker found employment as a salt-packer. A year later he became a coal miner (1866-68) before going to work as a houseboy for the wife of Lewis Ruffner, the owner of the mines. She encouraged Booker to continue his education and in 1872 he entered the Hampton Agricultural Institute.
The principal of the institutewas Samuel Armstrong, an opponent of slavery who had been commander of African American troops during the Civil War. Armstrong believed that it was important that the freed slaves received a practical education. Armstrong was impressed with Washington and arranged for his tuition to be paid for by a wealthy white man.
Armstrong became Washington's mentor. Washington described Armstrong in hisautobiography as "a great man - the noblest rarest human being it has ever been my privilege to meet". Armstrong's views of the development of character and morality and the importance of providing African Americans with a practical education had a lasting impact on Washington's own philosophy.
After graduating from the Hampton Agricultural Institute in 1875 Washington returned to Malden andfound work with a local school. After a spell as a student at Wayland Seminary in 1878 he was employed by Samuel Armstrong to teach in a program for Native Americans.
In 1880, Lewis Adams, a black political leader in Macon County, agreed to help two white Democratic Party candidates, William Foster and Arthur Brooks, to win a local election in return for the building of a Negro school in thearea. Both men were elected and they then used their influence to secure approval for the building of the Tuskegee Institute.
Samuel Armstrong, principal of the successful Hampton Agricultural Institute, was asked to recommend a white teacher to take charge of this school. However, he suggested that it would be a good idea to employ Washington instead.
The Tuskegee Negro Normal Institute wasopened on the 4th July, 1888. The school was originally a shanty building owned by the local church. The school only received funding of $2,000 a year and this was only enough to pay the staff. Eventually Washington was able to borrow money from the treasurer of the Hampton Agricultural Institute to purchase an abandoned plantation on the outskirts of Tuskegee and built his own school.
Theschool taught academic subjects but emphasized a practical education. This included farming, carpentry, brickmaking, shoemaking, printing and cabinetmaking. This enabled students to become involved in the building of a new school. Students worked long-hours, arising at five in the morning and finishing at nine-thirty at night.
By 1888 the school owned 540 acres of land and had over 400 students.Washington was able to attract good teachers to his school such as Olivia Davidson , who was appointed assistant principal, and Adella Logan. Washington's conservative leadership of the school made it acceptable to the white-controlled Macon County. He did not believe that blacks should campaign for the vote, and claimed that blacks needed to prove their loyalty to the United States by workinghard without complaint before being granted their political rights.
Southern whites, who had previously been against the education of African Americans, supported Washington's ideas as they saw them as means of encouraging them to accept their inferior economic and social status. This resulted in white businessmen such as Andrew Carnegie and Collis Huntingtondonating large sums of money to his...