Celebrating Black History Month: Booker T. Washington

We shall prosper in proportion as we learn to
dignify and glorify labor and put brains and skill
into the common occupations of life.

Elementary Language Activities Related to the Life of Booker T. Washington
Trade Quilt
In its early years, Tuskegee Institute taught black children carpentry, shoemaking, farming, and other skills. Booker T. Washington believed that African-Americans would advance economically and socially as they moved from the ranks of unskilled laborers to skilled tradesmen.

Today, various skilled trades still provide comfortable incomes. Brainstorm a list of skilled trades. Next, look through magazines, newspapers, and discarded books to find pictures of people engaged in these trades, or draw original pictures for each. On a 7 1/2" x 10" sheet of white paper, paste the picture, write the name of the trade above it, and write one or two sentences describing the trade at the bottom of the sheet. Mount each trade page on an 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of colored paper, then arrange blocks in quilt fashion on one wall.

For further study, you might use an almanac to find out approximately how many people practice each trade and what the average salary is for each.

Moving Up . . .
Booker T. Washington's autobiography Up From Slavery quickly became a best-seller. Part of the reason for its success was its theme -- a young boy overcoming tremendous obstacles to become one of the greatest leaders of late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

While most people do not face the obstacle Washington faced -- being born into slavery -- all people face some obstacles in life. More important than the specific obstacles encountered are the steps people take to rise above them.

Think of an obstacle you have encountered in life. What steps did you take or are you taking to overcome it? Write about it.

When There's A Will . . .
When Washington agreed to serve as head of the Tuskegee Institute, the Institute consisted of nothing more than the borrowed auditorium of an old church. In the few months before classes were to begin, Washington borrowed enough money to purchase an old plantation. Students then worked to build classrooms, dormitories, and a chapel. They also developed farming skills by raising most of the food they ate. Tuskegee Institute stands today as a monument to Washington's perseverance and creativity.

Think of an addition you would like to see made to your school--more library books, a computer lab, computers in the classroom, expanded athletic facilities, additional foreign language classes, more art-related programs, etc.

Divide into small groups. As a group, brainstorm a list of ways you could help to make the proposed changes take place. After brainstorming, eliminate any ideas that are impractical. From the remaining ideas, draft a plan of action.

Begin your plan with a clear statement of the goal. For example, the fifth graders of English Academy International would like to purchase $500 worth of books to begin a classroom library.

Next, explain why your goal is important in one or two sentences. ("By having books readily available in the classroom, we will be more inclined to read during our free time.")

Finally, outline the course of action your group will pursue to make the implementation of this proposal possible.

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