Booker T Washington Biography & Facts
Booker Taliaferro Washington (April 5, 1856 – November 14, 1915) was an American educator, author, orator, and adviser to several presidents of the United States. Between 1890 and 1915, Washington was the dominant leader in the African American community and of the contemporary black elite. Washington was from the last generation of black American leaders born into slavery and became the leading voice of the former slaves and their descendants. They were newly oppressed in the South by disenfranchisement and the Jim Crow discriminatory laws enacted in the post-Reconstruction Southern states in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Washington was a key proponent of African-American businesses and one of the founders of the National Negro Business League. His base was the Tuskegee Institute, a historically black college he founded in Tuskegee, Alabama. As lynchings in the South reached a peak in 1895, Washington gave a speech, known as the "Atlanta compromise", which brought him national fame. He called for black progress through education and entrepreneurship, rather than trying to challenge directly the Jim Crow segregation and the disenfranchisement of black voters in the South.
Washington mobilized a nationwide coalition of middle-class blacks, church leaders, and white philanthropists and politicians, with a long-term goal of building the community's economic strength and pride by a focus on self-help and schooling. With his own contributions to the black community, Washington was a supporter of racial uplift, but secretly he also supported court challenges to segregation and to restrictions on voter registration.Black activists in the North, led by W. E. B. Du Bois, at first supported the Atlanta compromise, but later disagreed and opted to set up the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to work for political change. They tried with limited success to challenge Washington's political machine for leadership in the black community, but built wider networks among white allies in the North. Decades after Washington's death in 1915, the civil rights movement of the 1950s took a more active and progressive approach, which was also based on new grassroots organizations based in the South, such as Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
Washington mastered the nuances of the political arena in the late 19th century, which enabled him to manipulate the media, raise money, develop strategy, network, push, reward friends, and distribute funds, while punishing those who opposed his plans for uplifting blacks. His long-term goal was to end the disenfranchisement of the vast majority of African Americans, who then still lived in the South. His legacy has been very controversial to the civil rights community, of which he was an important leader before 1915. After his death, he came under heavy criticism for accommodationism to white supremacy. However, a more balanced view of his very wide range of activities has appeared since the late 20th century. As of 2010, the most recent studies, "defend and celebrate his accomplishments, legacy, and leadership".
In 1856, Washington was born into slavery in Virginia as the son of Jane, an African-American slave. After emancipation, she moved the family to West Virginia to join her husband Washington Ferguson. West Virginia had seceded from Virginia and joined the Union as a free state during the Civil War. As a young man, Booker T. Washington worked his way through Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (a historically black college, now Hampton University) and attended college at Wayland Seminary (now Virginia Union University).In 1881, the young Washington was named as the first leader of the new Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, founded for the higher education of blacks. He developed the college from the ground up, enlisting students in construction of buildings, from classrooms to dormitories. Work at the college was considered fundamental to students' larger education. They maintained a large farm to be essentially self-supporting, rearing animals and cultivating needed produce. Washington continued to expand the school. He attained national prominence for his Atlanta Address of 1895, which attracted the attention of politicians and the public. He became a popular spokesperson for African-American citizens. He built a nationwide network of supporters in many black communities, with black ministers, educators, and businessmen composing his core supporters. Washington played a dominant role in black politics, winning wide support in the black community of the South and among more liberal whites (especially rich Northern whites). He gained access to top national leaders in politics, philanthropy and education. Washington's efforts included cooperating with white people and enlisting the support of wealthy philanthropists. Washington had asserted that the surest way for blacks to gain equal social rights was to demonstrate "industry, thrift, intelligence and property".Beginning in 1912, he built a relationship with philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, the owner of Sears Roebuck, who served on the board of trustees for the rest of his life and made substantial donations to Tuskegee. In addition, they collaborated on a pilot program for Tuskegee architects to design six model schools that could be built for African-American students in rural areas of the South. These were historically underfunded by the state and local governments. Given their success in 1913 and 1914, Rosenwald established the Rosenwald Foundation in 1917 to support the schools effort. It expanded improving or providing rural schools by giving matching funds to communities that committed to operate the schools and provided funds for construction and maintenance, with cooperation of white public school boards required. Nearly 5,000 new, small rural schools were built to improve education for blacks throughout the South, most after Washington's death in 1915.Northern critics called Washington's widespread and powerful organization the "Tuskegee Machine". After 1909, Washington was criticized by the leaders of the new NAACP, especially W. E. B. Du Bois, who demanded a stronger tone of protest in order to advance the civil rights agenda. Washington replied that confrontation would lead to disaster for the outnumbered blacks in society, and that cooperation with supportive whites was the only way to overcome pervasive racism in the long run. At the same time, he secretly funded litigation for civil rights cases, such as challenges to Southern constitutions and laws that had disenfranchised blacks across the South since the turn of the century. African Americans were still strongly affiliated with the Republican Party, and Washington was on close terms with national Republican Party leaders. He was often asked for political a.... Discover the Booker T Washington popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Booker T Washington books.