Friday, July 20, 2012
A different kind of sack race
Participants in Booker Boot Camp emulate life as it was for young slaves on a plantation.
Photos by SHERESE GORE | Laker Weekly
Park ranger Betsy Haynes demonstrates to boot campers how to carry a 50-pound bag of cornmeal.
Boot campers take a break after successfully hauling water from a stream.
Combining history with physical education, the Booker T. Washington National Monument inaugurated Booker Boot Camp as part of the park's dedication of July as Junior Ranger Month.
"Booker T. Washington believed in vocational education and working with the hands, the heart and the mind. So this boot camp would tie those three things together," said park ranger Betsy Haynes. "It will make the children remember what Booker must have gone through by actually doing the chores he had to do as a slave."
For an hour and a half on July 11, the 14 participating children had fun while experiencing the physical hardships demanded of slave children.
One activity, hauling water from a stream with wooden pails, would have been very familiar to Washington. The stream the children used in camp existed in the orator's lifetime, and Washington would have been expected to deliver water from it to the plantation's kitchen or to slaves laboring in the tobacco fields, Haynes said.
Later, the children struggled to carry 50-pound bags of cornmeal in the monument's stable in a re-creation of one of Washington's duties -having to transport sacks of corn to a mill for processing.
Haynes said she tried to incorporate the philosophy behind the Washington quote, "There's as much dignity in tilling a field as writing a poem," into the program. In subsequent weeks, the boot camp will commemorate Washington's post-Emancipation trek to West Virginia and his emphasis on vocational education by having participants hike the park's nature trail and inviting a blacksmith to teach the children about the trade.
"I learned that it's not easy to be a slave; there was a lot of responsibility," said boot camper Ellie Munnikhuysen. "If you didn't do it right the first time, it could be a big consequence."
The program will continue on Wednesday from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and is open to children ages 6-12. Pre-registration is required, and the program is limited to 20 children. For more information, call 721-2094.
Booker T. Washington National Monument, www.nps.gov/bowa