In Up from Slavery, why did Booker T. Washington feel that the examination he passed to gain admission into the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute of Virginia was the best one he ever passed?
(This question pertains to the Chapter "The Struggle For An Education" from the same book)
Booker felt like this because his entry to this institute marked the true beginning of his educational journey. He’d always been desperate to learn, but as a poor young black man, beyond the odd hour of schooling he’d never had the chance for any proper sort of education. Booker’s overwhelming sense of elation when he gains entry to the institute on the back of his manual duties, is clear.
I was one of the happiest souls on earth. The sweeping of that room was my college examination, and never did any youth pass an examination for entrance into Harvard or Yale that gave him more genuine satisfaction.
Since he first chanced to overhear some men talking about the Institute, founded by missionaries for the purpose of training up blacks to a trade, Booker had been absolutely fired by the determination to get there:
As they went on describing the school, it seemed to me that it must be the greatest place on earth, and not even Heaven presented more attractions for me at that time than did the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Virginia, about which these men were talking.
Such quotes help to illustrate the importance that Booker placed on education. From the first he was determined to educate himself and other African Americans, and he realized this ambition through the founding of his world-famous Tuskegee Institute, Alabama, in 1881, a school consciously modelled on the Hampton Institute which had given him and many other black people their first great chance in life.
All his life Booker believed passionately in the value of education, in its ability to raise the individual and improve his or her moral and spiritual being as well as providing him or her with knowledge. He believed that education was of primal importance in elevating African Americans, who at that time remained generally poor and with very limited opportunities, to a more dignified level in society. His ideas about non-confrontational, gradual improvement for the lot of African Americans was criticized by some fellow black intellectuals, such as W.E. B. Du Bois who thought him much too conciliatory in the face of prevailing racial injustices and sought more radical ways to change society.