Up from slavery boyhood day

Words: 401-500

Skills: Main / Central Idea

Grades: 6th 7th 8th

Topics: History

Genres: Biography / Autobiography

Lexile Range: 1300L +

Lexile Measure: 1360L

CCSS: History/Social Studies and Reading: Informational Text


Up From Slavery: Boyhood Days

by Booker T. Washington from Up From Slavery

Chapter 2 passage: Educator, author, leader, presidential advisor: Booker T. Washington was all these. He was also born a slave in 1856. This passage is from his autobiography written in 1901. Students will read the passage and answer questions on the main and supporting ideas.

Reading Comprehension Passage

Up From Slavery: Boyhood Days

by Booker T. Washington from Up From Slavery
Booker T. Washington was born into slavery in 1856. He dedicated himself to education and started many schools for black students. He founded and was named head of the Tuskegee Institute, a black university in Alabama. Washington was a leader of the African American community until his death in 1915. Below is a passage from Chapter 2 of his 1901 autobiography, Up From Slavery. Washington speaks about going to school after he and his family are free.


My second difficulty was with regard to my name, or rather A name. From the time when I could remember anything, I had been called simply “Booker.” Before going to school it had never occurred to me that it was needful or appropriate to have an additional name. When I heard the school roll called, I noticed that all of the children had at least two names, and some of them indulged in what seemed to me the extravagance of having three. I was in deep perplexity, because I knew that the teacher would demand of me at least two names, and I had only one. By the time the occasion came for the enrolling of my name, an idea occurred to me which I thought would make me equal to the situation; and so, when the teacher asked me what my full name was, I calmly told him “Booker Washington,” as if I had been called by that name all my life; and by that name I have since been known. Later in my life I found that my mother had given me the name of “Booker Taliaferro” soon after I was born, but in some way that part of my name seemed to disappear and for a long while was forgotten, but as soon as I found out about it I revived it, and made my full name “Booker Taliaferro Washington.” I think there are not many men in our country who have had the privilege of naming themselves in the way that I have.

More than once I have tried to picture myself in the position of a boy or man with an honored and distinguished ancestry which I could trace back through a period of hundreds of years, and who had not only inherited a name, but fortune and a proud family homestead; and yet I have sometimes had the feeling that if I had inherited these, and had been a member of a more popular race, I should have been inclined to yield to the temptation of depending upon my ancestry and my color to do that for me which I should do for myself. Years ago I resolved that because I had no ancestry myself I would leave a record of which my children would be proud, and which might encourage them to still higher effort.

Passage Only

Reading Comprehension Questions

1. What is the central idea of the passage?

2. What are two supporting ideas of the central idea?


3. If you could chose your own name, what would it be?