Being born at the time in which he was, Washington was one of the first African- Americans to experience the post- slavery world. This enabled him to work at low level jobs and "earn his way up." At the same time, he was able to struggle mightily and further an interest in education and schooling. Both conditions impacted his early years. The fact that Washington was able to do something for pay, albeit low, that was not enslavement helped him to believe that the new post- slavery setting held many new occupational and vocational opportunities for African- Americans. It certainly did for him.
At the same time, Washington's interest and passion for education enabled him to experience a reality that was previously punished under slavery. Slaves were forbidden to learn how to read and write. Now, Washington was able to experience education, with great sacrifice. The ending of the restriction of education on African- Americans helped to impact Washington's view of education as a lifelong passion and helped to formulate the identity of his early years. Such an emphasis on education forms the benchmark of his identity in his later years and in his teachings.