Securing an Education ...
In 1872, at age sixteen, Booker T. Washington entered Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Virginia. The dominant personality at the school, which had opened in 1868 under the auspices of the American Missionary Association, was the principal, Samuel Chapman Armstrong, the son of American missionaries in Hawaii.
Armstrong, who had commanded Black troops in the Civil War, believed that the progress of freedmen and their descendants depended on education of a special sort, which would be practical and utilitarian and would at the same time inculcate character and morality.
Washington traveled most of the distance from Malden to Hampton on foot, arriving penniless. His entrance examination to Hampton was to clean a room. The teacher inspected his work with a spotless, white handkerchief. Booker was admitted. He was given work as a janitor to pay the cost of his room and board, and Armstrong arranged for a White benefactor to pay his tuition.
At Hampton, Washington studied academic subjects and agriculture, which included work in the fields and pigsties. He also learned lessons in personal cleanliness and good manners. His special interest was public speaking and debate. He was jubilant when he was chosen to speak at his commencement.
The most important part of his experience at Hampton was his association with Armstrong, who he described in his autobiography as "a great man - the noblest, rarest human being it has ever been my privilege to meet." From Armstrong, Washington derived much of his educational philosophy.
After graduating from Hampton with honors in 1875, Washington returned to Malden to teach. For eight months he was a student at Wayland Seminary, an institution with a curriculum that was entirely academic. This experience reinforced his belief in an educational system that emphasized practical skills and self-help. In 1879, Washington returned to Hampton to teach in a program for American Indians.