Up from Slavery

  • Chapter I. A Slave Among Slaves

  • Booker T. Washington

    I was born a slave on a plantation in Franklin County, Virginia.

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  • I am not quite sure of the exact place or exact date of my birth, but at any rate I suspect I must have been born somewhere and at some time.

  • As nearly as I have been able to learn, I was born near a cross-roads post-office called Hale's Ford, and the year was 1858 or 1859.

  • I do not know the month or the day.

  • The earliest impressions I can now recall are of the plantation and the slave quartersโ€”

  • the latter being the part of the plantation where the slaves had their cabins.

  • Booker T. Washington

    My life had its beginning in the midst of the most miserable, desolate, and discouraging surroundings.

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  • This was so, however, not because my owners were especially cruel, for they were not, as compared with many others.

  • I was born in a typical log cabin, about fourteen by sixteen feet square.

  • In this cabin I lived with my mother and a brother and sister till after the Civil War, when we were all declared free.

  • Of my ancestry I know almost nothing.

  • In the slave quarters, and even later, I heard whispered conversations among the coloured people of the tortures which the slaves, including, no doubt, my ancestors on my mother's side, suffered in the middle passage of the slave ship while being conveyed from Africa to America.

  • Booker T. Washington

    I have been unsuccessful in securing any information that would throw any accurate light upon the history of my family beyond my mother.

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  • She, I remember, had a half-brother and a half-sister.

  • In the days of slavery not very much attention was given to family history and family recordsโ€”

  • that is, black family records.

  • My mother, I suppose, attracted the attention of a purchaser who was afterward my owner and hers.

  • Her addition to the slave family attracted about as much attention as the purchase of a new horse or cow.

  • Booker T. Washington

    Of my father I know even less than of my mother.

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