Chapter 10 of Up From Slavery covers Washington’s efforts at establishing his school in Tuskegee, Alabama. Although Washington, upon reaching Tuskegee, has a class of students for whom he is now responsible, he finds that there is no actual school building suitable for the purpose. Washington decides, therefore, to include...
Chapter 10 of Up From Slavery covers Washington’s efforts at establishing his school in Tuskegee, Alabama. Although Washington, upon reaching Tuskegee, has a class of students for whom he is now responsible, he finds that there is no actual school building suitable for the purpose. Washington decides, therefore, to include the erecting of school buildings as part of the students’ curriculum, hoping that the labor will instill a sense of pride and purpose in his students. This is largely effective.
Washington describes the trials and errors involved in constructing the buildings and materials, in particular the act of making bricks, as something far more difficult than he had otherwise thought. Although he has some help from faculty members with industrial experience, the failure of multiple attempts leaves Washington without money. He therefore pawns his own watch to gain the funds for further attempts.
This focus on the making of bricks pays off, and Washington’s students become exemplary and profitable manufacturers. Washington further reflects that the situation of his students learning to make first-rate bricks is itself analogous to the hopes he has for the racial status of blacks in America. The education of young independent black men, he reflects, was being shown to be a fruitful enterprise, and white community members (many of whom had not been sympathetic to the establishment of Washington’s school in the first place) come to buy their bricks because of their fine quality. This allows for a situation of greater social and economic equality: both blacks and whites in this community are able to trade with one another on increasingly equal terms, which in turn establishes the black community’s self-reliance and sense of pride. This is one example of Washington’s insistence on taking effective action towards equality rather than focusing on the theoretical or rhetorical. Black people, asserts Washington, will find acceptance in white communities by showing their value.
On a fundraising trip to Massachusetts, Washington remarks upon his symbolically important admittance to a hotel—something that would not have happened in the South. This marks yet another way in which Washington’s efforts grow towards greater equality. The funds are successfully raised, and Washington is able to hold a Thanksgiving service in the completed school building. This constitutes an enormous symbolic and practical success, as very few (if any) black community members had ever been able to hold or attend such a service.
The school at Tuskegee becomes larger and focuses on further expansion, requiring dining and dormitory facilities. Despite their success, however, the projects remain severely underfunded, and Washington juxtaposes his recent narrative of success against a continuing lack of even such basic amenities as available drinking water. He writes that this was a particularly devastating blow for him.
Nonetheless, Washington closes the chapter by reflecting that although the work was immensely difficult, the key was perseverance with wisdom and a willingness to work. He describes a sense of gladness at having had to sacrifice and toil, because the difficulty makes the ultimate success that much greater.
In the chapter’s final sentences, Washington juxtaposes the difficulties outlined in the narrative against the fine facility he ultimately creates, which sees no more of the aforementioned troubles. Such struggles, suggests Washington, are emblematic of the process of coming "up from slavery": a slow and grueling process rooted in hard and practical effort at creating independent value. Growth comes slowly, but it turns adversity gradually into something beautiful and good.