New Inventor posts
Let's Get In Touch!
Ready to start your next project with us? That's great! Give us a call or send us an email and we will get back to you as soon as possible!
Booker Taliaferro Washington
Booker Taliaferro Washington (April 5, 1856 – November 14, 1915) was an African-American educator, author, orator, and advisor to presidents of the United States. Between 1890 and 1915, Washington was the dominant leader in the African-American community.
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.
His base was the Tuskegee Institute, a historically black college in 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. But, secretly, he also supported court challenges to segregation and passed on funds raised for this purpose. Black militants in the North, led by W. E. B. Du Bois, at first supported the Atlanta compromise but after 1909, they set up the NAACP to work for political change. They tried with limited success to challenge Washington's political machine for leadership in the black community but also 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 militant approach, which was also based on new grassroots organizations based in the South, such as CORE, SNCC and SCLC.
Booker T. Washington mastered the nuances of the political arena in the late 19th century, which enabled him to manipulate the media, raise money, strategize, network, pressure, 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 still lived in the South.
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. As a young man, Washington worked his way through Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (now Hampton University) and attended college at Wayland Seminary (now Virginia Union University). In 1881, he was named as the first leader of the new Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
Washington attained national prominence for his Atlanta Address of 1895, which attracted the attention of politicians and the public, making him 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, helping to raise funds to establish and operate thousands of small community schools and institutions of higher education for the betterment of blacks throughout the South. This work continued for many years after his death. Washington argued that the surest way for blacks to gain equal social rights was to demonstrate "industry, thrift, intelligence and property."
Northern critics called Washington's widespread 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 for advancement of civil rights needs. 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 disfranchised blacks.[page needed] Washington was on close terms with national Republican Party leaders, and often was asked for political advice by presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.
In addition to his contributions in education, Washington wrote 14 books; his autobiography, Up From Slavery, first published in 1901, is still widely read today. During a difficult period of transition, he did much to improve the working relationship between the races. His work greatly helped blacks to achieve higher education, financial power and understanding of the U.S. legal system. This contributed to blacks' attaining the skills to create and support the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, leading to the passage of important federal civil rights laws.
Booker was born into slavery to Jane, an enslaved African-American woman on the plantation of James Burroughs in southwest Virginia, near Hale's Ford in Franklin County. The day, month, and even precise year of Booker's birth were not known even by him. Nor did he ever know his father, said to be a white man who resided on a neighboring plantation — an individual who, in any event, played no financial or emotional role in Washington's life.
From his earliest years the slave boy he was known simply as "Booker," with no surname and no middle name. His family was atomized and he later recalled that
"I cannot recall a single instance during my childhood or early boyhood when our entire family sat down to the table together, and God's blessing was asked, and the family ate a meal in a civilized manner. On the plantation in Virginia, and even later, meals were gotten to the children very much as dumb animals get theirs. It was a piece of bread here and a scrap of meat there. It was a cup of milk at one time and some potatoes at another."
As a boy of about 9 in Virginia, Booker and his family gained freedom under the Emancipation Proclamation as US troops occupied their region in Virginia. Booker was thrilled by the day of emancipation in early 1865:
"As the great day drew nearer, there was more singing in the slave quarters than usual. It was bolder, had more ring, and lasted later into the night. Most of the verses of the plantation songs had some reference to freedom... Some man who seemed to be a stranger (a United States officer, I presume) made a little speech and then read a rather long paper—the Emancipation Proclamation, I think. After the reading we were told that we were all free, and could go when and where we pleased. My mother, who was standing by my side, leaned over and kissed her children, while tears of joy ran down her cheeks. She explained to us what it all meant, that this was the day for which she had been so long praying, but fearing that she would never live to see."
After emancipation Jane took her family to West Virginia to join her husband Washington Ferguson, who had escaped from slavery to live there during the war. It was there that the wholly illiterate Booker began to painstakingly teach himself to read and attended school for the first time.
At the time he started school Booker was faced with the need to rapidly invent a surname, and he claimed for himself the family name Washington, after his stepfather. Still later he learned from his mother that she had originally given him the name "Booker Taliaferro" at the time of his birth, with the second name instantly falling into disuse. Upon learning of his original name, Washington immediately readopted it as his own, assuming the name he used for the rest of his life, Booker Taliaferro Washington.
In 1881, the Hampton Institute president Samuel C. Armstrong recommended Washington to become the first leader of Tuskegee Institute, the new normal school (teachers' college) in Alabama. He led the institution for the rest of his life and became a prominent national leader among African Americans, with considerable influence with wealthy white philanthropists and politicians.
Washington was instrumental in lobbying the state legislature in 1891 to locate the newly authorized West Virginia State University in the Kanawha Valley of West Virginia. He visited the campus often and spoke at its first commencement exercise.
Washington was a dominant figure of the African-American community, then largely based in the South, from 1890 to his death in 1915. His Atlanta Address of 1895 received national attention. To many he was seen as a popular spokesman for African-American citizens. Representing the last generation of black leaders born into slavery, Washington was generally perceived as a supporter of education for freedmen and their descendants in the post-Reconstruction, Jim Crow-era South. Throughout the final twenty years of his life, he maintained his standing through a nationwide network of supporters including black educators, ministers, editors, and businessmen, especially those who supported his views on social and educational issues for blacks. He also gained access to top national white leaders in politics, philanthropy and education, raised large sums, was consulted on race issues, and was awarded honorary degrees from leading American universities.