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Born a slave, Booker T. Washington remembers what “dinnertime” was like as a child.

He wrote in 1906’s Up From Slavery:

“I cannot recall a single instance during my childhood or early boyhood when our entire family sat down to the table together, and God’s blessing was asked, and the family ate a meal in a civilized manner. On the plantation in Virginia, and even later, meals were gotten to the children very much as dumb animals get theirs. It was a piece of bread here and a scrap of meat there. It was a cup of milk at one time and some potatoes at another.”

He was nine years old when slavery was abolished and the young man not only embraced who he was – what he had been, but was determined to see his people, former slaves, the Negroes of the south, achieve dignity, respect and self worth.

He did so not by militantly confronting segregationists or racists, but by focusing on the education of blacks in the South, working with the Tuskegee Institute and other foundations. He promoted black-owned businesses, schmoozed wealthy, white politicians and deal-makers, and became one of the most vital voices in the transformation of blacks from property to citizens of God – human beings; Americans.

Washington died in 1915, but his 1911 autobiography My Larger Education serves as a testament to the foundations of hard work, empowerment and education. It stands in stark contrast to modern-day civil-rights groups who seek “safe spaces” from racism around every corner and even demand their own kind of “racial segregation” to avoid interacting with the larger community.

It’s a vitally important work, so here are just the first selections from the few pages of his book:

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