“Had we started in a fine, attractive, convenient room, I fear we would have ‘lost our heads’ and become ‘stuck up.’ It means a great deal, I think, to start off on a foundation which one has made for one’s self.”

This quotation, which appears in Chapter 10 after Washington describes the difficulty of digging out a basement to serve as the first dining room of Tuskegee, reveals a central tenet of Washington’s philosophy of racial uplift. Washington believes that if former slaves enter society too quickly, without proper education and training, they will be entering with a false foundation and will ultimately fail. Instead, Washington believes that through hard work and struggle, people learn not only to navigate their circumstances, but also to be self-sufficient. This is necessary to guard against pretension, against an undue concern with outward appearances and oneself. Though the dining room that the students of Tuskegee start off with produces great discomfort, the students learn humility and wisdom through their perseverance.