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During Booker Washington’s time, the black masses believed that labour was a curse. For his community – newly freed from the chains of slavery – education became the means to avoid this curse for the rest of one’s life.

Booker, however, understood that labour was something to be loved, not to be escaped from. The time he spent in Mrs Ruffner’s house taught him the importance of doing things in a proper, prompt and systematic manner. Later, seeing Miss Mackie – a woman of considerable education and social standing – perform menial tasks with delight, taught him to love labour for its own sake. At Hampton, he learned the purpose of education: to create avenues for individuals to learn to do things that the society wanted done, thereby making them valuable as well as self-reliant.

Armed with these lessons, Booker approached the people of his race. He so…

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