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Industrial Education is the Solution

Booker T. Washington

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Citation Information:   Booker T Washington, Industrial Education is the Solution, 1896.



  1. At Tuskegee, Alabama, starting fifteen years ago in a little shanty with one teacher and thirty students, with no property, there has grown up an industrial and educational village where the ideas that I have referred to are put into the heads, hearts, and hands of an army of colored men and women, with the purpose of having them become centers of light and civilization in every part of the South. One visiting the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute today will find eight hundred and fifty students gathered from twenty-four States, with eighty-eight teachers and officers training these students in literary, religious, and industrial work.

  2. Counting the students and the families of the instructors, the visitor will find a black village of about twelve hundred people. Instead of the old, worn-out plantation that was there fifteen years ago, there is a modern farm of seven hundred acres cultivated by student labor. There are Jersey and Holstein cows and Berkshire pigs, and the butter used is made by the most modern process.

  3. Aside from the dozens of neat, comfortable cottages owned by individual teachers and other persons, who have settled in this village for the purpose of educating their children, he will find thirty-six buildings of various kinds and sizes, owned and built by the school, property valued at three hundred thousand dollars. Perhaps the most interesting thing in connection with these buildings is that, with the exception of three, they have been built by student labor. The friends of the school have furnished money to pay the teachers and for material.

  4. When a building is to be erected, the teacher in charge of the mechanical and architectural drawing department gives to the class in drawing a general description of the building desired, and then there is a competition to see whose plan will be accepted. These same students in most cases help do the practical work of putting up the building—some at the sawmill, the brickyard, or in the carpentry, brickmaking, plastering, painting, and tinsmithing departments. At the same time care is taken to see not only that the building goes up properly, but that the students, who are under intelligent instructors in their special branch, are taught at the same time the principles as well as the practical part of the trade.

  5. The school has the building in the end, and the students have the knowledge of the trade. This same principle applies, whether in the laundry, where the washing for seven or eight hundred people is done, or in the sewing-room, where a large part of the clothing for this colony is made and repaired, or in the wheelwright and blacksmith departments, where all the wagons and buggies used by the school, besides a large number for the outside public, are manufactured, or in the printing-office, where a large part of the printing for the white and colored people in this region is done. Twenty-six different industries are here in constant operation.

  6. When the student is through with his course of training he goes out feeling that it is just as honorable to labor with the hand as with the head, and instead of his having to look for a place, the place usually seeks him, because he has to give that which the South wants. One other thing should not be overlooked in our efforts to develop the black man. As bad as slavery was, almost every large plantation in the South during that time was, in a measure, an industrial school. It had its farming department, its blacksmith, wheelwright, brickmaking, carpentry, and sewing departments. Thus at the close of the war our people were in possession of all the common and skilled labor in the South. For nearly twenty years after the war we overlooked the value of the antebellum training, and no one was trained to replace these skilled men and women who were soon to pass away; and now, as skilled laborers from foreign countries, with not only educated hands but trained brains, begin to come into the South and take these positions once held by us, we are gradually waking up to the fact that we must compete with the white man in the industrial world if we would hold our own.

    Booker T Washington, Industrial Education is the Solution, 1896.