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Grade K-2, 3-5

Booker T. Washington:”Fifty Cents and a Dream”

Updated: September 11 2015,
Author: Lynne Stover


This lesson is about Booker T. Washington and the jobs he held when he was a boy. Because he was born a slave, he was not allowed to learn how to read or write.  He became a free person when the Civil War ended and worked many jobs so that he could earn enough money to pay for his education.

Task List

In this lesson you will be introduced to productive resources. You will learn about the jobs Booker T. Washington worked at when he was a boy and what capital and human resources were necessary to do these jobs. You will match the resources needed to do each of the jobs.


First listen to your teacher read a story about Booker T. Washington when he was a boy. Then complete an activity that matches human and capital resources to the different jobs young Booker T. Washington had before he got his education at Hampton Institute.


Booker T. Washington wanted to get an education and was willing to work hard to do so. He worked in the salt and coal mines to help his family make money after they were freed  from slavery. When he ran out of money during his journey to the Hampton Institute, he got a job at the loading docks to earn enough money to continue. When he arrived at his destination, he was willing to work as a janitor so that he could attend school. Booker T. Washington worked hard to follow his dream.

Assessment Activity

Do you know the difference between capital and human resources? Complete the activity sheet the teacher will give you to find out.

Extension Activity

Booker T. Washington had many jobs when he was a boy.

Below is a list of them with a brief description of what duties each job required.

Your teacher is going to ask you to participate in an activity concerning these jobs.

Be prepared to participate by reading this list before the activity begins.

  1. Book Carrier- Carried the school books to school for his master’s daughter. (He was a slave and did not get paid money for this job.)
  2. Salt Furnace Worker– Shoveled, packed, and hauled salt in a hot factory. (He joined his stepfather at this job.)
  3. Coal Miner– Went underground to dig coal. (This was a dangerous job for a man, yet he and his brothers worked hard mining coal to make money for the family.)
  4. Dock Worker– Hauled cargo off of barges. (He used the money he earned from this job to help him get to the Hampton Institute, in Virginia to go to school.)
  5. School Janitor- Cleaned classrooms, washed windows, and scrubbed floors. (This job helped him pay his school tuition.)
  6. Teacher- Taught students. (The money he earned was used to pay for his brothers’ tuition at the Hampton Institute.)
  7. Book Author– Wrote books. (His autobiography “Up from Slavery” became a bestseller.)