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February 09, 2021

Who Is Booker T. Washington

Fight for Life, Indianapolis, INSource: History | Repost Fight for Life Foundation 2/9/2021 –

Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) was born into slavery and rose to become a leading African American intellectual of the 19 century, founding Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (Now Tuskegee University) in 1881 and the National Negro Business League two decades later. Washington advised Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. His infamous conflicts with Black leaders like W. E. B. Du Bois over segregation caused a stir, but today, he is remembered as the most influential African American speaker of his time.

Booker T. Washington’s Parents and Early Life

Booker Taliaferro Washington was born on April 5, 1856 in a hut in Franklin County, Virginia. His mother was a cook for the plantation’s owner. His father, a white man, was unknown to Washington. At the close of the Civil War, all the enslaved people owned by James and Elizabeth Burroughs—including 9-year-old Booker, his siblings, and his mother—were freed. Jane moved her family to Malden, West Virginia. Soon after, she married Washington Ferguson, a free Black man.

Booker T. Washington’s Education

In Malden, Washington was only allowed to go to school after working from 4-9 AM each morning in a local salt works before class. It was at a second job in a local coal mine where he first heard two fellow works discuss the Hampton Institute, a school for formerly enslaved people in southeastern Virginia founded in 1868 by Brigadier General Samuel Chapman. Chapman had been a leader of Black troops for the Union during the Civil War and was dedicated to improving educational opportunities for African Americans.

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