Page:Boys Life of Booker T. Washington.djvu/23

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EARLY CHILDHOOD

7

It must be remembered that the conditions under which Booker lived in these early years of his life were not restricted entirely to the negroes. Many of the white people were poor also, and many white boys wore flax shirts and shoes with wooden soles. Just after the Civil War, especially, all the white people of the South had a very hard time. White boys as well as negro boys had no time for play. Nor did they have an opportunity to go to school. In those days many white boys who were eager for an education had such difficulties to face as those which loomed up before Booker Washington.

By and by, when Booker was about nine years of age, there came a thrilling day. For four long years the great war had been going on. Often he had heard his mother singing freedom songs. He remembered being awakened one morning and saw his mother by his bed and heard her praying that Lincoln might be successful, and that her little boy might some day be free. He had seen some of the soldiers in their uniforms, home on furlough. He remembered when they brought home the body of "Marse Billy" and buried him amidst the bitter weeping of the slaves, who loved him as their friend, for he had often begged for them when they were about to be punished. While they vaguely knew and felt that the success of Lincoln meant freedom, and the success of the others meant slavery, they were still loyal and