West Virginia State University | West Virginia State University
An educated African-American leader, whose influence stretched from three US presidents to across the United States, made his boyhood home in Malden, West Virginia.
After the Civil War, Booker T. Washington, his mother Jane Ferguson, his brother and sister walked over 250 miles from Franklin County, Virginia to Malden. They came to join Jane's husband, Washington Ferguson, who had found work in the saline mines after the war.
It was in Malden that Mr. Washington learned the many life lessons that he used in his later years when he built Tuskegee Institute and with his work for the betterment of the condition of African-Americans. Mr .Washington learned to read, first self-taught from a blue back speller his mother secured for him, then from a young African-American man who taught the first black school in Malden. Finally from Mrs. Viola Ruffner, for whom he worked for many years.
It was through his work with Mrs. Ruffner that he learned the puritan ethics of hard work, cleanliness and thrift that he carried throughout his life. He later said that he couldn't pass a piece of paper in the street, or an untidy yard, without wanting to pick it up or clean it.
Mr. Washington left Malden at the age of 16 to attend Hampton Institute in Virginia.
The lessons he learned in Malden secured a place at Hampton Institute. He so thoroughly cleaned a recitation room that the admitting matron knew he was serious about his education.
After graduating from Hampton, Mr. Washington returned to Malden and taught both regular school and Sunday school for many African-Americans in the town. He married his first wife in the African Zion Church, the oldest African-American Church in Kanawha County, where he also taught Sunday school. He left Malden soon after to begin his illustrious career at Tuskegee Institute. He also became known as an honored statesman and advisor to presidents.
Wherever Booker T. Washington went, he never forgot the lessons he learned in Malden, West Virginia, and his impact on the town, the state and the country are a legacy that will always be remembered.
©2016 West Virginia State University  |  P.O. Box 1000 Institute, WV 25112-1000  |  (800) 987-2112 | Mobile Site | Webmaster