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Booker T Washington

Booker T. Washington Booker T. Washington 1856-1915, Educator Booker Taliaferro Washington was the foremost black educator of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He also had a major influence on southern race relations and was the dominant figure in black public affairs from 1895 until his death in 1915. Born a slave on a small farm in the Virginia backcountry, he moved with his family after emancipation to work in the salt furnaces and coal mines of West Virginia.

After a secondary education at Hampton Institute, he taught an upgraded school and experimented briefly with the study of law and the ministry, but a teaching position at Hampton decided his future career. In 1881 he founded Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute on the Hampton model in the Black Belt of Alabama. Though Washington offered little that was innovative in industrial education, which both northern philanthropic foundations and southern leaders were already promoting, he became its chief black exemplar and spokesman. In his advocacy of Tuskegee Institute and its educational method, Washington revealed the political adroitness and accommodationist philosophy that were to characterize his career in the wider arena of race leadership. He convinced southern white employers and governors that Tuskegee offered an education that would keep blacks down on the farm and in the trades.

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To prospective northern donors and particularly the new self- made millionaires such as Rockefeller and Carnegie he promised the inculcation of the Protestant work ethic. To blacks living within the limited horizons of the post- Reconstruction South, Washington held out industrial education as the means of escape from the web of sharecropping and debt and the achievement of attainable, petit-bourgeois goals of self-employment, landownership, and small business. Washington cultivated local white approval and secured a small state appropriation, but it was northern donations that made Tuskegee Institute by 1900 the best-supported black educational institution in the country. The Atlanta Compromise Address, delivered before the Cotton States Exposition in 1895, enlarged Washington’s influence into the arena of race relations and black leadership. Washington offered black acquiescence in disfranchisement and social segregation if whites would encourage black progress in economic and educational opportunity. Hailed as a sage by whites of both sections, Washington further consolidated his influence by his widely read autobiography Up From Slavery *menu.html* (1901), the founding of the National Negro Business League in 1900, his celebrated dinner at the White House in 1901, and control of patronage politics as chief black advisor to Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.

Washington kept his white following by conservative policies and moderate utterances, but he faced growing black and white liberal opposition in the Niagara Movement (1905-9) and the NAACP (1909-), groups demanding civil rights and encouraging protest in response to white aggressions such as lynchings, disfranchisement, and segregation laws. Washington successfully fended off these critics, often by underhanded means. At the same time, however, he tried to translate his own personal success into black advancement through secret sponsorship of civil rights suits, serving on the boards of Fisk and Howard universities, and directing philanthropic aid to these and other black colleges. His speaking tours and private persuasion tried to equalize public educational opportunities and to reduce racial violence. These efforts were generally unsuccessful, and the year of Washington’s death marked the beginning of the Great Migration from the rural South to the urban North.

Washington’s racial philosophy, pragmatically adjusted to the limiting conditions of his own era, did not survive the change. Biographies.

Booker T Washington

Booker T. Washington Booker T. Washington was the first African American whose likeness appeared on a United States postage stamp. Washington also was thus honored a quarter century after his death. In 1946 he also became the first black with his image on a coin, a 50-cent piece.

The Tuskegee Institute, which Washington started at the age of 25, was the where the 10-cent stamps first were available. The educator’s monument on its campus shows him lifting a symbolic veil from the head of a freed slave. Booker Taliaferro Washington was born a slave on April 5, 1856, in Franklin County, Va. His mother, Jane Burroughs, was a plantation cook. His father was an unknown white man.

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As a child, Booker swept yards and brought water to slaves working in the fields. Freed after the American Civil War, he went with his mother to Malden, W. Va., to join Washington Ferguson, whom she had married during the war. At about age 16 Booker set out for Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, which had been established by the chief of the Freedmen’s Bureau to educate former slaves. He walked much of the way, working to earn the fare to complete the long, dusty journey to Virginia. For his admission test he repeatedly swept and dusted a classroom, and he was able to earn his board by working as a janitor.

After graduation three years later he taught in Malden and at Hampton. A former slave who had become a successful farmer, and a white politician in search of the Negro vote in Macon County obtained financial support for a training school for blacks in Tuskegee, Ala. When the board of commissioners asked the head of Hampton to send a principal for their new school, they had expected the principal to be white. Instead Washington arrived in June 1881. He began classes in July with 30 students in a shanty donated by a black church.

Later he borrowed money to buy an abandoned plantation nearby and moved the school there. By the time of his death in Tuskegee in 1915 the institute had some 1,500 students, more than 100 well-equipped buildings, and a large faculty. Washington believed that blacks could promote their constitutional rights by impressing Southern whites with their economic and moral progress. He wanted them to forget about political power and concentrate on their farming skills and learning industrial trades. Brickmaking, mattress making, and wagon building were among the courses Tuskegee offered.

Its all-black faculty included the famous agricultural scientist George Washington Carver. The open controversy over acceptable black leadership dated from 1895, when Washington was invited to address a white audience at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, Ga. While emphasizing the importance of economic advancement to blacks, he repeatedly used the paraphrase, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” Some blacks were incensed by his comment, “The wisest among my race understand that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremest folly.” Others feared that the enemies of equal rights were encouraged by his promise, “In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.”.

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