Booker T. Washington was born in rural Virginia April 5, 1856.
He grew up a slave. Around the age of nine he was set free by the emancipation proclamation. He dedicated himself not to feeling sorry for himself, but fighting and working to get an education.
His autobiography, “Up From Slavery” is an incredible work, detailing his life as a slave, and how he turned himself into a national leader. The book is a call to former slaves and their descendants to accept that the past is the past, and they should focus on their future. The key to that future would be found in education.
He founded Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama with very little help from the government. The students literally built there own school. Taking classes in the morning, building and planting in the afternoons and evening. He taught them that the only way that African Americans were going to achieve equality in this country was through hard working, and pulling themselves up.
I was lucky enough to visit Tuskegee University a few years ago. It is immaculate, and I have been very few places where people handled themselves with such grace and class.
I remember visiting his home on campus. In Washington’s dining room, there were three personally signed pictures from President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt took massive criticism from all over the country because he had invited Booker T. Washington to dinner in the white house. It was the first time ever a black man had been in the White House, other than as a servant. Much of white America was outraged. Roosevelt didn’t care what the racist critics said. He and Washington maintained a friendship until Washington’s death.
Booker T. Washington- a man who taught many in his life, and still teaches us after death.