Booker T. Washington Biography

Early Life of Washington

Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) was born out of a slave family in the countryside of Virginia. His mother Jane was a cook while his father was a white plantation owner. However, his father was unknown. Washington had brother called John and a sister known as Amanda. As a result of the Emancipation proclamation, Booker T. together with the rest of the family moved to West Virginia to join his step father Washington Ferguson where he was able to learn how to read and write while working in a mine firm. Washington did not start going to school as a student but as a helper who helped in carrying books for his master’s daughter. In those days, it was illegal for a slave to study. He later joined elementary school where he worked while learning. He was later incorporated as a house boy by a wealthy woman who encouraged him to pursue his education further (Smock, 25).

Washington education

Washington attended Hampton secondary school typically for African- Americans and graduated in 1875 with a diploma. Hampton was founded to train teachers and was chiefly funded by groups of churches and other people such as William Jackson Palmer. After completing his diploma course, he undertook a job as a teacher in an upgraded school in West Virginia and later taught in Hampton institute. In 1881, an up coming school in Tuskegee was in need of a principal. Booker was nominated for that position initially meant for a white American. On arriving, he found a completely messy school that had nothing except $2000 funds that helped pay wages to teachers. In July 1881, he founded Tuskegee Institute. Originally founded on an old church, Washington later purchased a plantation that he built the institute. The institute was typically funded by the students. That is, its buildings, furniture and all the beautifications.

Washington contributions

Under his direction, students learnt academics as well as trade which he believed were fundamental in an individual’s life especially the Afro-Americans. Therefore, the institute concentrated in providing practical skill to the African-American to empower them economically. By 1888, the school had acquired an approximated land of 540 acres and an overwhelming number of students. His conservatism nature boosted the institute’s name among the white population who saw him as having accepting their inferior economic status as blacks. As a result, rich white men donated towards the school that further enhanced African-Americans education (Raymond, pp1-44).

He first became famous with the publication of his speech in the opening of the cotton States. His conservatism made him accepted by the white politicians as the next African-American leader. In 1901, he was invited in state house by the then President Theodore Roosevelt. This posed a threat to the southern whites who in an article commented that the president should be very wise in his dealing with Washington. He organized various events to put across his call for equality. Most notably is the Negro Exhibition that he organized alongside W.E. Du Bois to show the positive contribution of the black community. He continued participating in civil right movement until his death when he was 59. In his life, he married thrice. He had three children; one with his first wife, two with the second wife and none with the third wife. Despite all his efforts to fight for civil rights, he was criticized especially by W.E Du Bois for not noting expressing the views of the black population but rather the views of the whites (Amper, 50).

Looking at Washington’s bibliography, he someone worth emulating as he came from a slave’s child to an influential African-American spoke’s person. Therefore, his attributes and principles in life made him an exemplary figure in the United States and world as a whole. The following are his attributes that are inspirational to me.

Education philosophies of Washington were very inspiring. He believed that through education and learning of trade, African-Americans would be able to acquire skills that would enable them fight for their rights. He was opposed to physical confrontation as agitated by other black leaders such as Du Bois. According to him, confrontation would have resulted into more damage since most blacks would have been killed given their inexperience nature in battles. However, education according to him was the best way to go since it would have provided them with economic power. In addition, education would have provided the blacks with necessary knowledge of handling equality problems through agitating for a change in constitution. A new constitution would therefore incorporate all their rights in it. However, Washington was keen to note that this would not be a short procedure but called for patience among the blacks. This was very wise of him and in deed; it was this education that finally liberated the Africa-America population. It is this education that also saw the change in constitution and allowed African-Americans to vote. The spillover effect of that education agitation by Washington is the current United State President Barrack Obama who became the first African-American president in the history of America. Actually as Washington puts it, patience is what matters (Harlan, 200).

Washington attributes and principles

Booker T Washington was a liberal man. Although had been denied his human rights during the period of racial discrimination, he continued to urge other Africa-Americans to go slow on their demands. He urged them to sacrifice their rights and needs for political power for the sake of the future generation. Instead, he urged his fellow blacks to embrace industrial education. It is this industrial education that provided him with the skills and knowledge that he possessed. Although he differed with his mate W.E.B Du Bois on the best move to take, he maintained a more liberal method. It is this industrial education that provided foundation to the Black Americans stability. He had faith that through his liberal means, the blacks would be seen as responsible hence gain full participation in the American society. His approach involved calling for initial steps towards equality and not full equality. It is this approaches that later provided the blacks with economic power to spear head their need for equality.

Washington was an extremely out going person and had very strong persuasion skills. This made him a great leader and a very influential spokes person for the Africa-America. This could be seen through his socialization with the many white politicians. He could persuade the rich white men to raise funds for the cause of the blacks. He was of the view that the only way for African-American population to have equal rights with their counterparts was to exercise patience, thrift and industry. This could be done through interaction with the whites even if they oppressed them. In addition, Washington had great dreams that helped transform many lives of the black population. For example, he was once quoted as saying that success is measured by the many obstacles one has been able to pass rather than the position being held at the moment. He had a dream that one day, the African-America would overcome all the obstacles in front of them and that they would attain equal treatment with their counter parts.

In conclusion, Washington’s courage was worth admiring. Amidst all the criticism by his fellow black leaders, he stood his ground without fear and favor. Were it not his principles and courage, African-American would have gone to war with the white in pursuit for justice and equality. The result would have been fatal and painful to bear among the African American Population. Therefore, Washington is a figure worth emulating even in the modern days (Reed, 60).

Works cited

Washington, Booker., Louis R Harlan, Susan Valenza, Raymond W Smock, Sadie M. Harlan. The Booker T. Washington Papers: 1914-1915. Chicago. University of Illinois Press, 1984 pp 10-90, 200-210.

Smock, Raymond. Booker T. Washington in Perspective: Essays of Louis R. Harlan. Mississippi: Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2006 pp 1-40.

Amper, Thomas., Jeni Reeves. Booker T. Washington. Millbrook Press, 1998 pp 5-50.

Washington Booker T. Contributor Ishmael Reed. Up from Slavery: An Authoritative Text, Contexts and Composition History, Criticism. Signet Classic, 2000 pp 66-90.

Harlan, Louis R. Booker T. Washington: The Wizard of Tuskegee, 1901-1915. London. Oxford University Press US, 1986 pp 200.

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