Washington knew that education meant he would be less likely to be taken advantage of by white people, would be able to command some semblance of respect and could foster greater opportunity to secure wealth and financial security. In keeping with these ideals, Washington became dedicated to helping the Tuskegee Institute, an experimental school for black people, become a tremendous success (Wright, 1992). As part of their tuition, he encouraged students to help construct the physical buildings of the school at the same time that he focused their attention on learning the necessary skills for various industrial trades.
The intention behind this was not to belittle their abilities, but instead to ensure they were able to secure immediate, well-paying employment in a marketplace saturated by white men determined to keep black men ‘ in their place’ . Because of his personal experience of life, Washington felt that the best way for the black man to escape the restrictions imposed on them by the white man was through economic independence performing tasks that the white man was not sufficiently knowledgeable to undertake.
Most of these types of jobs were in the industrial sector and thus, this is the area where Washington focused his attention. Although he strongly encouraged technological skills at the institute, he also encouraged his students to learn about the more academic knowledge conveyed through classical education. Those individuals who excelled at it were encouraged to continue study to become teachers for the future generations. Toward this end, he also developed so-called ‘ rolling schools’ that would travel through the country to the remote black communities to teach students who could not otherwise attend classes (Wright, 1992).
Through his efforts, black people throughout the south were energized and encouraged to help each other as a community to pull themselves out of the poverty and slavery of their past through education and gaining freedom by obtaining good jobs.
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