Dr. Booker T. Washington-HBCU grad, Institution Builder, Presidential Advisor and Cabinet Nominee

"Booker T. Washington has been a subject of scholars as they compare his conservative philosophy to DuBois's liberal one. Even during his lifetime, he faced Monroe Trotter and others' criticism. These great thinkers had the same agenda—a plan to move Black Americans forward. While Washington believed in hard work to education, his contemporaries believed in education to hard work. Both were correct, and in concert, we did move forward. These former slaves knew that their actions would move generations to come. The common thread has been education. Whether from a traditional Ivy League school like Harvard or an HBCU Ivy League School like Hampton, they knew it would be essential to our advancement.

"Historically Black Colleges and Universities have been the bedrock for Blacks' advancement in America. These institutions existed during slavery and were a beacon of hope for the runaway. Wilberforce, Ohio, was one of the last stops on the Underground Railroad where Wilberforce University awaited to prepare the fugitive for life as a free and educated person. Booker T. Washington walked from his home to Hampton University in search of an education, and once he got it, he began to teach. Teaching was not enough. He built Tuskegee Institute and, with the President of Sears's help, thousands of other schools throughout the nation.

Central State University's students were privileged to first-hand information about Booker T. Washington from his granddaughter Mrs. Edith Washington Johnson, the Director of Financial Aid and Admissions. Mrs. Johnson would be a guest lecturer in Dr. Joseph Lewis's classes and discuss Washington's strong beliefs about the importance of Blacks using their education to move the race forward.- The Martin Luther King Republicans encourage you to support HBCUs by making a contribution or encouraging a student to attend. We are also grateful to President Donald J. Trump for securing much need funding during his administration. Jimmy Lee Tillman, II founder and president .

Who was Booker T. Washington?

Booker T. Washington was born a slave on a plantation in Hale's Ford, in Franklin County, VA, on April 5, 1856. After emancipation, his family was so poor that he worked in salt furnaces and coal mines at age nine. An intelligent and curious child, he yearned for an education and was frustrated when he could not receive good schooling. When he was 16, his parents allowed him to quit work to go to school. They had no money to help him, so he walked 200 miles to attend the Hampton Institute in Virginia. He paid his tuition and board there by working as the janitor.

Committing himself to the idea that education would raise him and his people to equality in America, Washington became a teacher. He first taught in his hometown, and then at the Hampton Institute, and then in 1881, he became the first leader of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. As head of the Institute, he frequently traveled to raise funds from both Blacks and whites. He soon became a well-known speaker. In 1895, Washington was asked to speak at the Cotton States Exposition opening, a first-time honor for an African American. His Atlanta Compromise speech explained his major thesis that Blacks could secure their constitutional rights through their own economic and moral advancement rather than through legal and political changes.

Although his pacifying stand angered some Blacks who feared it would encourage the opponents of equal rights, whites approved his views. Thus his significant achievement was to win over diverse elements among southern whites, without whose support the programs he foresaw and brought into being would have been impossible. In addition to Tuskegee Institute, Washington instituted various programs for rural extension work, built over 5000 schools throughout the country, and helped establish the National Negro Business League. Shortly after President McKinley's election in 1896, a movement was set in motion that urged that Washington be named to a cabinet post. Still, he withdrew his name from consideration, preferring to work outside.

Map of 5,000 schools

In 1901, Washington wrote his autobiography, "Up From Slavery." As a politician, he was a chief Black advisor to Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. Washington kept his White following by conservative policies and moderate utterances. Still, he faced growing Black and white liberal opposition in the Niagara Movement and the NAACP, demanding civil rights for Blacks and encouraging protest in response to White aggression such as lynching, disfranchisement, and segregation laws.

Booker T. Washington, who urged Blacks to gain equality through education and economic advancement, died on November 14, 1915. One irony is that Washington's death marked the beginning of the Great Migration from the rural South to the urban North. Washington's racial philosophy, logically adjusted to his era's limiting conditions, did not survive the change.


The African American Desk Reference

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Copyright 1999 The Stonesong Press Inc. and

The New York Public Library, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Pub.

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