Chapter 5 & 6 - Reconstruction Period
The years from 1867 to 1878 may be called the period of Reconstruction. During this period, when the task of rehabilitating the newly liberated slaves was taking place, two ideas were constantly agitating the minds of the coloured people: one was the craze for Greek and Latin learning, and the other was a desire to hold office.
A large number of people took up teaching or preaching as an easy way to make a living. Many became teachers who could do little more than write their names. After having taught school in Malden for two years, and after having succeeded in preparing several of the young men and women, besides his two brothers, to enter the Hampton Institute, Booker decided to spend some months in study at Washington D.C.
When Washington takes a comparative view of the institution at Washington D.C. and the one at Hampton, he finds Hampton better in that it emphasized industrial training unlike the one at Washington. Mostly the coloured people crowded Washington city because they felt that they could lead a life of ease there, and hoped to secure Federal
It was decided that the capital of the state of West Virginia would be shifted from Wheeling to some other central point. The people were supposed to vote for it out of three towns. Charleston, only five miles from Malden, Washington’s home, was one of them. A committee of white people in Charleston invited Washington to canvass for it.
Washington was successful in winning people’s vote to make Charleston the permanent seat of government by his convincing speeches. Impressed by this success, a number of persons wanted him to enter political life.
He conceived the idea of starting a night-school, into which a limited number of the most promising of these young men and women would be received, on condition that they were to work for ten hours during the day, and attend school for two hours at night.
General Armstrong assigned Washington charge of the night-school. Beginning with about twelve strong, earnest men and women, it grew into a twenty-five student classroom within a few weeks, and eventually it became an important institution with three to four hundred students.