Up from Slavery, 1901 (excerpt)

1901

Subjects: Thrift Collection, Generosity, Teaching thrift, Curricula, What is thrift?

The students were making progress in learning books and in developing their minds; but it became apparent at once that, if we were to make any permanent impression upon those who had come to us for training, we must do something besides teach them mere books… Aside from this, we wanted to give them such a practical knowledge of some industry, together with the spirit of industry, thrift, and economy, that they would be sure of knowing how to make a living after they had left us.

For a long time one of the most difficult tasks was to teach the students that all buttons were to be kept on their clothes, and that there must be no torn places and no greasy-spots. This lesson, I am pleased to be able to say, has been so thoroughly learned and so faithfully handed down from year to year by one set of students to another that often at the present time, when the students march out of the chapel in the evening and their dress is inspected, as it is every night, not one button is found to be missing.

In meeting men, in many places, I have found that the happiest people are those who do the most for others; the most miserable are those who do the least… I often say to our students, in the course of my talks to them on Sunday evenings in the chapel, that the longer I live and the more experience I have of the world, the more I am convinced that, after all, the one thing that is most worth living for—and dying for, if need be—is the opportunity of making someone else more happy and more useful.

Full text available online at: http://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/washington/washing.html. Source: Washington, Booker T., 1901. Up from Slavery. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co.): 126, 176, and 229. .

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