James Lee Dickey: An Analysis of One African-American's Leadership in Jim Crow Texas

Arrival at Hampton

When young Booker arrived at Hampton Institute he was was unable to register for classes because he had no funds for tuition nor appropriate recommendations for scholarships. The head teacher at Hampton, Miss Mary F. Mackie, found him dallying after the other new students left so asked him to sweep a classroom. Thanks to Mrs. Ruffner, his persnickety employer in Malden, the boy dusted, swept, and polished that room so well that he Hampton hired him as janitor and compensated him with an education. The founder of Hampton Institute was General Samuel Armstrong who Washington claimed in his autobiography, Up From Slavery, was the “rarest, strongest, and most beautiful character” that he would ever meet. Armstrong applied the same principles to Hampton as he had learned as a missionary in Hawaii. Strong Christian values, cleanliness and usefulness were the mantras that Booker T. gleaned from General Armstrong. He also learned a more controversial lesson that would impact his reputation in the future, i.e. physical work had intrinsic value and independence and self-reliance instilled pride.

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