- 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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Armstrong became Washington's mentor, strengthening his values of hard work and strong moral character.
Booker T. Washington graduated from Hampton in 1875 with high marks. For a time, he taught at his old grade school in Malden, Virginia, and attended Wayland Seminary in Washington, D.C. In 1879, he was chosen to speak at Hampton's graduation ceremonies, where afterward General Armstrong offered Washington a job teaching at Hampton. In 1881, the Alabama legislature approved $2,
000 for a "colored" school, the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (now known as Tuskegee University). General Armstrong was asked to recommend a white man to run the school, but instead recommended Booker T. Washington. Classes were first held in an old church, while Washington traveled all over the countryside promoting the school and raising money. He reassured whites that nothing in the Tuskegee program would threaten white supremacy or pose any economic competition to whites.
Under Booker T. Washington's leadership, Tuskegee became a leading school in the country. At his death, it had more than 100 well-equipped buildings, 1,500 students, a 200-member faculty teaching 38 trades and professions, and a nearly $2 million endowment. Washington put much of himself into the school's curriculum, stressing the virtues of patience, enterprise, and thrift. He taught that economic success for African Americans would take time, and that subordination to whites was a necessary evil until African Americans could prove they were worthy of full economic and political rights. He believed that if African Americans worked hard and obtained financial independence and cultural advancement, they would eventually win acceptance and respect from the white community.
In 1895, Booker T. Washington publicly put forth his philosophy on race relations in a speech at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia, known as the "Atlanta Compromise." In his speech, Washington stated that African Americans should accept disenfranchisement and social segregation as long as whites allow them economic progress, educational opportunity and justice in the courts. This started a firestorm in parts of the African-American community, especially in the North. Activists like W.E.B. Du Bois (who was working as a professor at Atlanta University at the time) deplored Washington's conciliatory philosophy and his belief that African Americans were only suited to vocational training. Du Bois criticized Washington for not demanding equality for African Americans, as granted by the 14th Amendment, and subsequently became an advocate for full and equal rights in every realm of a person's life.
Though Washington had done much to help advance many African Americans, there was some truth in the criticism. During Washington's rise as a national spokesperson for African Americans, they were systematically excluded from the vote and political participation through black codes and Jim Crow laws as rigid patterns of segregation and discrimination became institutionalized throughout the South and much of the country.
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