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Booker T. Washington

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  • October 2012
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Booker T. Washington was born into slavery on April 5, 1856 in Virginia. His mulatto mother raised him. She was a plantation cook, as well as a mother of three sons. She, unlike many other married slaves of the time, was reunited with her husband after the slave liberation in 1865. His father was a white man that had nothing to do with his upbringing. Booker worked painstaking hours at a salt furnace and coal mine along side his two brothers. He was so determined to become educated that he agreed to work the mines at night to make up for the loss of time while he was at school. It’s in school that Booker picked up the last name of Washington after finding out from his mother that he already had the last name of Taliaferro. He was then referred to as Booker T. Washington. It is this determination that leads Booker to become one of the most influential black educators, and leaders of the late 19th century. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois had contrasting views on the way that African Americans should progress in society. As Dr. Charles Turner stated in his lecture, “Dubois insisted on confrontational activities in the struggle for social, political and economic rights and gains.” Washington’s approach on the other hand emphasized “careerism.” He believed that blacks could advance faster in this new society, which still had hostility towards blacks, by working harder in an economic standpoint rather than relying on the social aspects of equal rights. In 1881 he created what many would never expect from a former slave. The Hampton Institute president asked Washington to head their new black college, The Tuskegee Institute. Washington accepted the position. The only downside to the idea was the school’s budget didn’t include development and staffing for this new college. Washington took on the job and with help from his skilled students built the building from the ground up. Tuskegee became a very reputable resource for African Americans, bettering their...

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