To Washington, the homespun cap made by his mother symbolizes the importance of thriftiness and resourcefulness. As a child, Washington wanted a cap to wear to school because he was envious of the caps of the other children. Rather than buying a new cap and going into debt, his mother made one out of two pieces of scrap cloth from around the house. Washington points out that other boys who had store bought caps had no greater advantage in life because of them, and some even ended up in the penitentiary. To Washington, the store bought cap symbolizes that money and appearance do no develop good character in a person, while the homespun cap symbolizes that thrift and labor instill strong character and promise of a good future.
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The timeline below shows where the symbol The Homespun Cap appears in Up From Slavery. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2: Boyhood Days