Friday, February 01, 2013

Park filled with activities marking Black History Month

"I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life, as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed."

- Booker T. Washington

By his own definition, Booker T. Washington was an extremely successful man. Born the son of slaves on the Burroughs' plantation in Franklin County, at his birth, he was considered property. When he was 9 years old, the Emancipation Proclamation freed Washington and his family. In his lifetime, Washington went from being considered property to the leader of a university and adviser to U.S. presidents.

Washington always had the desire to learn, but as a slave he was not allowed to get an education. One of his duties as a slave was to carry books to school for one of the owner's daughters, Laura Burroughs, who was a teacher.

After emancipation, the family moved to West Virginia. Washington worked several manual labor jobs before walking more than 500 miles to Hampton Roads. There, he worked his way through Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, now Hampton University, and went on to attend college at what is now Virginia Union University. Washington became a teacher, and in 1881, he was named the first leader of the new Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

This month, the national monument in Hardy that bears his name will host several events to commemorate Black History Month.

Story Time Saturdays for Children will be held Feb. 2, 9, and 16 from 11 until 11:30 a.m. A different story will be read each week. On the first Saturday, park rangers will read "Follow the Drinking Gourd," a book based on the folk song that tells how slaves seeking freedom followed the Big Dipper to safe havens along the Underground Railroad and finally to safety in the North.

A presentation titled "Booker T. Washington, Richmond's Maggie L. Walker and Industrial Education" is scheduled for Feb.10 at 2 p.m.

"I have done a lot of research at the Maggie Walker National Park Service site in Richmond to find any connections between Booker T. Washington and Maggie Walker," said Janet Blanchard, park ranger at the Booker T. Washington National Monument. "She was definitely a supporter of industrial education, like Washington. At the time, industrial education for African-Americans was really a progressive idea."

The "Building Character: Booker T. Washington's Program at Tuskegee Institute" presentation on Feb. 16 at 2p.m. is based on Washington's character-building speeches given on Sunday evenings to his students at Tuskegee Institute.

"He had the determination and drive that led him to become the leader of Tuskegee Institute," said park ranger Betsy Haynes. "And I think these speeches he gave were examples of how he lived his life."

The program "Slavery and the Civil War at Hale's Ford" will be held Feb. 23 at 2 p.m.

"The program will focus on the changes brought to the area by the Civil War and identify some of the surviving structures that would have been known by Booker T. Washington and his neighbors," explained Haynes.

The park is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5p.m. Admission to the park and events is free. The park also includes walking trails, farm animals and period buildings.

Booker T. Washington National Monument

12130 Booker T. Washington Highway, Hardy. 721-2094, www.nps.gov/bowa

Booker T. Washington National Monument Events

Story Time Saturdays for Children: Feb. 2, 9, and 16, 11a.m. until 11:30 a.m.

Booker T. Washington, Richmond's Maggie L. Walker and Industrial Education: Feb.10 at 2 p.m.

Building Character: Booker T. Washington's Program at Tuskegee Institute: Feb. 16 at 2 p.m.

Slavery and the Civil War at Hale's Ford: Feb. 23 at 2 p.m.

Nineteenth Century Mourning Customs and Historic Dress: March 2 at 2 p.m.

Death Comes Home: Commemorative program about Billy Burroughs' death through Booker T. Washington's eyes: March 24