Up From Slavery

how was christmas celebrated in tuskgee

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Washington gained more insight into the lives of the people of Alabama by witnessing their Christmas traditions. The day before, scores of children knocked on doors asking for "Chris'mus gifts!" (50). Following the traditions of slave times, there followed a week of debauchery with drunkenness and time off work. Visiting local families, he found some with just 10 cents worth of ginger cakes, a few pieces of sugar cane, or a jug of cheap whiskey as the only signifiers of the holy season. He contrasts these observations with the manner in which Tuskegee students were taught to spend the season: caring for others. Some helped rebuild a cabin for a 75-year-old woman, while others who generously donated coats for a fellow student in need.