- NAME: Booker T. Washington
- OCCUPATION: Educator, Civil Rights Activist
- BIRTH DATE: April 05, 1856
- DEATH DATE: November 14, 1915
- EDUCATION: Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, Wayland Seminary in Washington, D.C.
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Hale's Ford, Virginia
- PLACE OF DEATH: Tuskegee, Alabama
- Full Name: Booker Taliaferro Washington
- AKA: Booker T. Washington
Best Known For
Educator Booker T. Washington was one of the foremost African-American leaders of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, founding the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, now known as Tuskegee University.
African-American leader Booker T. Washington founded Tuskegee Institute in 1881 to train African-Americans in agriculture and industry and promote the economic progress of his race.
Born into slavery in 1856, Booker T. Washington was freed after the Civil War and rose up to become one of the foremost African-American leaders of his time.
In 1881, Booker T. Washington founded the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, which focused on training African Americans in agricultural pursuits. A political adviser and writer, Washington clashed with intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois.
W.E.B. Du Bois and other activists started the Niagara Movement to end racial segregation and to lead the charge against Jim Crow laws.
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Born in Virginia in the mid-to-late 1850s, Booker T. Washington put himself through school and became a teacher. In 1881, he founded the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama (now known as Tuskegee University), which grew immensely and focused on training African Americans in agricultural pursuits. A political adviser and writer, Washington clashed with intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois over the best avenues for racial uplift.
"I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed."
"No race can prosper till it learns there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem."
"Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way."
Born to a slave on April 5, 1856, Booker Taliaferro (later Booker T. Washington) had little promise for his life. In Franklin County, Virginia, as in most states prior to the Civil War, the child of a slave became a slave. Booker’s mother, Jane, worked as a cook for plantation owner James Burroughs. His father was an unknown white man, most likely from a nearby plantation. Booker and his mother lived in a one-room log cabin with a large fireplace, which also served as the plantation’s kitchen.
At an early age, Booker went to work carrying sacks of grain to the plantation’s mill. Toting 100-pound sacks was hard work for a small boy, and he was beaten on occasion for not performing his duties satisfactorily. Booker's first exposure to education was from the outside of school house near the plantation; looking inside, he saw children his age sitting at desks and reading books. He wanted to do what those children were doing, but he was a slave, and it was illegal to teach slaves to read and write.
After the Civil War, Booker and his mother moved to Malden, West Virginia, where she married freedman Washington Ferguson. The family was very poor, and 9-year-old Booker went to work in a salt mine with his stepfather instead of going to school. Booker's mother noticed his interest in learning and got him a book from which he learned the alphabet and how to read and write basic words. Because he was still working, he got up nearly every morning at 4 a.m. to practice and study. At about this time, Booker took the first name of his stepfather as his last name, Washington.
In 1866, Booker T. Washington got a job as a houseboy for Viola Ruffner, the wife of coal mine owner Lewis Ruffner. Mrs. Ruffner was known for being very strict with her servants, especially boys. But she saw something in Booker—his maturity, intelligence and integrity—and soon warmed up to him. Over the two years he worked for her, she understood his desire for an education and allowed him to go to school for an hour a day during the winter months.
In 1872, Booker T. Washington left home and walked 500 miles to Hampton Normal Agricultural Institute in Virginia. Along the way he took odd jobs to support himself. He convinced administrators to let him attend the school and took a job as a janitor to help pay his tuition. The school's founder and headmaster, General Samuel C. Armstrong, soon discovered the hardworking boy and offered him a scholarship, sponsored by a white man. Armstrong had been a commander of a Union African-American regiment during the Civil War and was a strong supporter of providing newly freed slaves with a practical education.
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