When the slaves were set free, one of the first things that many of them did was to change their names. Most of the slaves had only one name. As free people they felt that they should have the same sort of names as other free people; so they began to add a last name, and usually an initial. If a man had been called "Tom" all his life, he was now called "Tom L. Johnson." The "L" stood for nothing. It was simply a part of his "entitles," as Washington says. Another thing they did was to leave their old home place. They could not realize that they were really free unless they tested the matter by going away from the place of their servitude.
Booker Washington's stepfather had left Virginia during the war and had gone to West Virginia. Just as soon as the war was over, he sent for his wife and children to come to him in West Virginia.
He lived at Malden, five miles from Charleston, the capital of the state. It was several hundred miles from the old home in Virginia, but the family determined to go. They bundled up their goods and put them in a cart, the children walking. They traveled the entire distance in this way.