Harris & Ewing – source:(
Public Domain
File: Booker T Washington retouched flattened-crop.jpg
Created: 1 January 1905 


The distinguished Negro-American Entrepreneur Booker T. Washington believed that the best interests of Negro people in the Post- Reconstruction Era could be realized through education in the crafts and industrial skills and the cultivation of the virtues of patience, enterprise, and thrift. Washington urged his fellow Negros, most of whom were impoverished and illiterate farm laborer’s to temporarily abandon their efforts to win full civil rights and political power and instead to cultivate their industrial and farming skills so as to attain economic security. Negros would thus accept segregation and discrimination, but their eventual acquisition of wealth and culture would gradually win for them the respect and acceptance of the white community. This would break down the divisions between the two races and lead to equal citizenship for Negros in the end.

In his epochal speech (September 18, 1895) to a racially mixed audience at the Atlanta Exposition, Washington summed up his pragmatic approach in the famous phrase:

“In all things that are purely social we can be separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.” – Booker T. Washington source:( 


Booker Taliaferro Washington (c. 1856 – November 14, 1915) was a Negro-American educator, author, orator, and advisor to several presidents of the United States. Between 1890 and 1915, Washington was the dominant leader in the Negro-American community. Washington was from the last generation of Negro-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.

Booker T. Washington was a key proponent of the Negro-American Business philosophy, and he was one of the founders of the National Negro Business League. Washington’s base was the Tuskegee Institute, a historically Negro college in Alabama. As lynching’s 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 Negro progress through education and entrepreneurship, rather than trying to challenge directly the Jim Crow segregation and the disenfranchisement of Negro voters in the South. Booker T. Washington mobilized a nationwide coalition of middle-class Negros, church leaders, and white philanthropists and politicians, with a long-term goal of building the building up the community’s economic strength, and pride, by a focus on self-help and self-schooling of Negro children, with Negro teachers. But, secretly, he also supported court challenges to segregation and restrictions on voter registration.

Negro militants in the North, led by W.E.B. DuBois, at first supported the Atlanta compromise, but later disagreed and opted to set up the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to work for political change. They tried with limited success to challenge Washington’s political machine for leadership in the Negro community, but built wider networks among white allies in the North. Decades after Booker T. 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 Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (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, develop strategy, network, push, reward friends, and distribute funds, while punishing those who opposed his plans for uplifting Negros. His long-term goal was to end the disenfranchisement of the vast majority of Negro Americans, who then still lived in the South.

Published in the book “American civilization and the Negro: the Afro-American in relation to national progress”; By C. V. Roman, A.M., M.D., LL…. (1916)
Public Domain
File: Booker T Washington portrait.jpg
Created: 28 August 2011



In 1856, Booker T. Washington was born into slavery in the State of Virginia as the son of Jane, a Negro-American slave. After emancipation, Jane moved her family to West Virginia to join her husband Ferguson Washington. As a young man, Booker T. Washington worked his way through Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (a historically Negro college now Hampton University) and attended college at Wayland Seminary (now Virginia Union University). In 1881, at the age of twenty-five, Booker T. Washington was named as the first President and leader of the new Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, founded for the higher education of Negros.

Booker T. Washington attained national prominence for his Atlanta Address of 1895, which attracted the attention of politicians and the public. Washington became a popular spokesperson for Negro-American citizens. During this time Booker T. Washington built a nationwide network of supporters in many Negro communities, with Negro ministers, educators, and businessmen composing his core supporters. Washington played a dominant role in Negro politics, winning wide support in the Negro community of the South and among more liberal whites (especially rich Northern whites).

Washington’s Successful Higher Education System

As a young man Booker T. Washington worked in salt furnaces and coal mines in West Virginia for several years to earn money. Washington made his way east to Hampton Institute, a school established to educate freedmen and their descendants, where he worked to pay for his studies. Washington also attended Wayland Seminary in Washington, D.C. in 1878 and left after 6 months. In 1881, the Hampton Institute president Samuel C. Armstrong recommended then-25-year-old Booker T. Washington to become the first leader of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (later Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University), the new normal school (teachers’ college) in Alabama.

The new school opened on July 4, 1881, initially using space in a local church. The next year, Washington purchased a former plantation, which became the permanent site of the campus. Under Washington’s direction, his students literally built the Tuskegee Institute making bricks, constructing classrooms, barns and outbuildings; and even growing their own crops and raising livestock; both for learning and to provide for most of the basic necessities. All men and women had to learn trades as well as academics. Washington helped raise funds to establish and operate (open) hundreds of small community schools and institutions of higher educations for Negros. The Tuskegee faculty used all the activities to teach the students basic skills to take back to their mostly rural Negro communities throughout the South.

The main goal was not to produce farmers and tradesmen, but teachers of farming and trades who taught in the new schools and colleges for Negros across the South. The school expanded over the decades, adding programs and departments, to become the prestigious Tuskegee University that the distinguished Booker T. Washington led for the rest of his life, more than 30 years. As he developed it, adding to both the curriculum and the facilities on the campus, Washington became a prominent national leader among Negro Americans.

Tuskegee Institute 

Washington expressed his vision for his race in his direction of the school. He believed that by providing needed skills to society, Negro Americans would play their part, leading to acceptance by white Americans. He believed that Negros would eventually gain full participation in society by acting as responsible, reliable American citizens. President William McKinley and most of his cabinet visited Booker Washington.

A History Class at Tuskegee Institute in 1902

Public Domain
File: History class at Tuskegee.jpg
Uploaded: 6 April 2006

Washington Built Thousands of Schools for Negros in the South

Booker T Washington 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. Beginning in 1912, he built a relationship with philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, who served on the board of trustees for the rest of his life and made substantial donations to the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. In addition, they collaborated on a pilot program for Tuskegee architects to design six model schools that could be built for Negro-American students in rural areas of the South.

Given their success in 1913 and 1914, through the Rosenwald Foundation, established in 1917, Rosenwald expanded the program to encourage school construction through giving matching funds to communities who committed to operate the schools. Thousands of new, small rural schools to improve education for Negros throughout the South were built, most after Washington’s death in 1915. Washington had asserted that the surest way for Negros to gain equal social rights was to demonstrate “industry, thrift, intelligence and property.”

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 Negros to achieve higher education, financial power, and understanding of the U.S. legal system. This contributed to Negros’ attaining the skills to create and support the civil rights movement, leading to the passage of important federal civil rights laws.


Booker T. Washington with his wife Margaret and two sons, Ernest, left and Booker T. Washington, Jr., right.

Via Library of Congress. See Booker T. Washington, seated on steps of porch, with wife and two sons
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File: Booker T. Washington.jpg
Uploaded: 17 December 2015

Washington’s Marriages and children

Booker T. Washington was married three times during his lifetime. In his autobiography Up from Slavery, he gave all three of his wives’ credit for their contributions at Tuskegee Institute. His first wife Fannie N. Smith was from Malden, West Virginia, the same Kanawha River Valley town where Washington had lived from age nine to sixteen. Booker maintained ties there all his life, and Fannie was a student of his when he taught in Malden. Booker helped Fannie gain entrance into the Hampton Institute. Booker and Fannie were married in the summer of 1882. They had one child, Portia M. Washington, born in 1883. Fannie died in May 1884.

In 1885 the widower Washington married again, to Olivia A. Davidson. (1854-1889). Born free in Virginia to a free woman of color and a father who had been freed from slavery, Olivia moved with her family to the free state of Ohio, where she attended common schools. Olivia later studied at Hampton Institute and the Massachusetts State Normal School at Framingham. She taught in Mississippi and Tennessee before going to Tuskegee to work as a teacher. Booker T. Washington recruited Olivia Davidson to Tuskegee, and promoted her to vice-principal. They had two sons, Booker T. Washington Jr. and Ernest Davidson Washington, before she died in 1889.

In 1893 Booker T. Washington married Margaret James Murray. She was from Mississippi and had graduated from Fisk University, a historically Negro college. They had no children together, but she helped rear Booker T. Washington’s three children. Margaret outlived Booker T. Washington and she died in 1925.

Washington’s Descendants 

Portia Marshall Washington (daughter)

Washington’s first daughter by Fannie, Portia Marshall Washington (1883–1978), was a trained pianist who married Tuskegee educator and architect William Sidney Pittman in 1900. They had three children.

However, Pittman faced several difficulties in trying to ply his trade while his wife built her musical profession. Eventually, after Pittman assaulted their daughter Fannie in the midst of an argument, Portia took Fannie and left Pittman to resettle at Tuskegee. Portia was removed from the faculty in 1939 because she did not have an academic degree, but she opened her own piano teaching practice for a few years.

After retiring in 1944 at the age of 61, Portia dedicated her efforts in the 1940s to memorializing her father, Booker T. Washington. She succeeded in getting her father’s bust placed in the Hall of Fame in New York, a 50-cent coin minted with his image, and his Virginia birthplace home being declared a national monument. Portia Washington Pittman died on February 26, 1978, in Washington, D.C.

Booker T. Washington Jr. (son)

Booker T. Washington Jr. (1887–1945) married Nettie Blair Hancock (1887–1972). Their daughter, Nettie Hancock Washington (1917–1982), taught at a high school in Washington, D.C. for twenty years. She married physician Frederick Douglass III (1913–1942), great-grandson of famed abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass. Nettie and Frederick’s daughter, Nettie Washington Douglass, and her son, Kenneth Morris, co-founded the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, an anti-sex trafficking organization.

Booker T. Washington had Critics in the North

Northern Negro critics called Booker T. Washington’s widespread organization the “Tuskegee Machine”. After 1909, Washington was criticized by the leaders of the new NACCP, especially W.E.B. DuBois, who demanded a stronger tone of protest in order to advance the civil rights agenda. Washington replied that confrontation would lead to disaster for the outnumbered Negros in society, and that cooperation with supportive whites was the only way to overcome pervasive racism in the long run. At the same time, Washington secretly funded litigation for civil rights cases, such as challenges to southern constitutions and laws that had disenfranchised blacks across the South since the turn of the century.

1905 Negros and the Republican Party

During this time in American history many Negro-Americans were still strongly affiliated with the Republican Party, and Booker T. Washington was a Republican Party member as well, and he was on close terms with national Republican Party leaders. Washington was often asked for political advice by Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.


Booker Washington and Theodore Roosevelt at Tuskegee Institute,1905.  unattributed – Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Photograph of Booker Washington and Theodore Roosevelt at Tuskegee Institute.
Public Domain
File: Booker Washington and Theodore Roosevelt at Tuskegie Institute.jpg
Created: 24 October 1905

Washington’s Wealthy Friends and Benefactors


Washington’s wealthy friends included Andrew Carnegie and Robert Curtis Ogden, seen here in 1906 while visiting Tuskegee Institute. Andrew Carnegie (front row, center) and Robert C. Ogden (front row, far left) visiting faculty members of the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama. Booker T Washington and his wife Margaret James Murray are sitting between Carnegie and Ogden.
Public Domain
File: Tuskegee Institute – faculty.jpg
Created: 31 December 1905

State and Local Funding for Negro Schools

Individual States and local governments in the United States gave very little money to Negro schools, but white American philanthropists proved willing to invest heavily. Booker T. Washington encouraged them and directed millions of their money to projects all across the South that Washington thought best reflected his Self-help Philosophy. Washington associated with the richest and most powerful businessmen and politicians of the era. He was seen as a spokesperson for Negro Americans and became a conduit for funding educational programs.

Booker T. Washington’s contacts included such diverse and well-known entrepreneurs and philanthropists as Andrew Carnegie, William Howard Taft, John D. Rockerfeller, Henry Huttleston Rogers, George Eastman, Julius Rosenwald, Robert Curtis Ogden, Collis Potter Huntington, and William Henry Baldwin Jr. The latter donated large sums of money to agencies such as the Jeanes and Slater Funds. As a result, countless small rural schools were established through the efforts of Booker T. Washington, and these programs continued many years after his death. In addition to the help from rich white men, the majority of black communities helped each other directly by donating time, money, and labor to their community schools in a sort of matching fund

source: (

Booker T. Washington 1895

Frances Benjamin Johnston – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID ppmsca.23961.
Public Domain
File: Booker T. Washington by Francis Benjamin Johnston, c. 1895.jpg
Created: circa 1895 date
QS: P, +1895-00-00T00:00:00Z/9, P1480, Q5727902

Washington’s Political Beliefs And the Atlanta Compromise

Booker T. Washington’s 1895 Atlanta Exposition address was viewed as a “revolutionary moment” by both Negro Americans and whites across the country. At the time W. E. B. DuBois supported Washington, but they grew apart as E. B. DuBois sought more action to remedy disfranchisement and improve educational opportunities for blacks. After their falling out, DuBois and his supporters referred to Washington’s speech as the “Atlanta Compromise” to express their criticism that Washington was too accommodating to white interests.

Booker T. Washington advocated a “go slow” approach to avoid a harsh white backlash. The effect was that many youths in the South had to accept sacrifices of potential political power, civil rights and higher education. Booker T. Washington’s belief was that Negro Americans should “concentrate all their energies on industrial education, and accumulation of wealth, and the conciliation of the South”. Washington valued the “industrial” education, as it provided critical skills for the jobs then available to the majority of Negro Americans at the time, as most lived in the South, which was overwhelmingly rural and agricultural. Washington thought these skills would lay the foundation for the creation of stability that the Negro-American community required in order to move forward.

Washington worked and socialized with many national white politicians and industry leaders. He developed the ability to persuade wealthy whites, many of them self-made men, to donate money to black causes by appealing to values they had exercised in their rise to power.

Washington argued that the surest way for blacks to gain equal social rights was to demonstrate “industry, thrift, intelligence and property”.  Washington believed these were key to improved conditions for Negro Americans in the United States. Because Negro Americans had only recently been emancipated and most lived in a hostile environment Washington believed they could not expect too much at once. He said, “I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed.”

Booker T. Washington believed that in the long term,

Negros would eventually gain full participation in society by showing themselves to be responsible, reliable American citizens”.  Washington’s approach advocated for an initial step toward equal rights, rather than full equality under the law, gaining economic power with Negro owned and operated businesses to back up Negro demands for political equality in the future.”

Washington believed that such Negro economic power and achievements would prove to the deeply prejudiced white Americans that Negro Americans were also responsible and reliable citizens, and not “naturally’ stupid and incompetent. People called Washington the “Wizard of Tuskegee” because of his highly developed political skills, and his creation of a nationwide political machine based on the black middle class, white philanthropy, and Republican Party support.

Booker T. Washington at Carnegie Hall


“Booker T. Washington holds a Carnegie Hall audience spellbound during his Tuskegee Institute Silver Anniversary lecture, 1906. Mark Twain is seated just behind Mr. Booker T. Washington.”
Public Domain
File: Booker T. Washington Lecture, 1906.JPG
Created: 31 December 1905

Booker T. Washington Published Five Books

Booker T. Washington’s long-term adviser, Timothy Thomas Fortune (1856–1928), was a respected Negro-American economist and editor of The New York Age, the most widely read newspaper in the Negro community within the United States. Timothy Fortune was the ghost-writer and editor of Washington’s first autobiography, The Story of My Life and Work. Washington published five books during his lifetime with the aid of ghost-writers Timothy Fortune, Max Bennett Thrasher and Robert E. Park.

They included compilations of speeches and essays:

  • The Story of My Life and Work (1900)
  • Up from Slavery (1901)
  • The Story of the Negro: The Rise of the Race from Slavery (2 vol 1909)
  • My Larger Education (1911)
  • The Man Farthest Down (1912)

In 1900 the National Negro Business League was founded

In an effort to inspire the “commercial, agricultural, educational, and industrial advancement” of Negro Americans, Booker T. Washington founded the National Negro Business League (NNBL) in 1900.


Booker T. Washington’s house at Tuskegee University
Released under the GNU Free Documentation License.
CC BY-SA 3.0
File: Booker T. Washington House.jpg
Created: 30 May 2006


Booker T. Washington’s coffin being carried to grave site

See Wikipedia: Public domain and Wikipedia:
Corporations for more details.
Public Domain
File: Booker T Washington burial 3c11868r.jpg
Created: circa 1915 date QS: P, +1915-00-00T00:00:00Z/9, P1480, Q5727902

Booker T. Washington’s Death

Despite Washington’s extensive travels and widespread work, Booker T. Washington continued as principal of Tuskegee. Washington’s health was deteriorating rapidly in 1915; he collapsed in New York City and was diagnosed by two different doctors as having Bright’s disease. Told he only had a few days left to live, Washington expressed a desire to die at Tuskegee. He boarded a train and arrived in Tuskegee shortly after midnight on November 14, 1915. He died a few hours later at the age of 59. He was buried on the campus of Tuskegee University near the University Chapel.

His death was believed at the time to have been a result of Congestive heart failure, aggravated by overwork. In March 2006, with the permission of his descendants, examination of medical records indicated that he died of hypertension, with a blood pressure more than twice normal, confirming what had long been suspected.

At his death, Tuskegee’s endowment was close to $2 million. Washington’s greatest life’s work, the education of Negros in the South, was well underway and expanding.

Booker T. Washington’s Legacy 

Washington was held in high regard by business-oriented conservatives, both white and negro. Historian Eric Foner argues that the freedom movement of the late nineteenth century changed directions so as to align with America’s ‘New Economic and Intellectual Framework.’ Negro leaders emphasized economic self-help and individual advancement into the middle class as a more fruitful strategy than political agitation.

There was emphasis on education and literacy throughout the period after the Civil War. Booker T. Washington’s famous Atlanta speech of 1895 marked this transition, as it called on blacks to develop their farms, their industrial skills, and their entrepreneurship as the next stage in emerging from slavery.

(Note: Booker T. Washington’s self-help philosophy did take deep root in Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma., where in 1906 the district became known as “the Negro Wall Street” or “the Black Wall Street.”)

By this time, Mississippi had passed a new constitution, and other southern states were following suit, or using electoral laws to raise barriers to voter registration; they completed disenfranchisement of blacks at the turn of the 20th century to maintain white supremacy. But at the same time, Washington secretly arranged to fund numerous legal challenges to such voting restrictions and segregation, which he believed was the way they had to be attacked.

Washington repudiated the historic abolitionist emphasis on unceasing agitation for full equality, advising Negros that it was counterproductive to fight segregation at that point. Foner concludes that Washington’s strong support in the Negro community was rooted in its widespread realization that, given their legal and political realities, frontal assaults on white supremacy were impossible, and the best way forward was to concentrate on building up their economic and social structures inside segregated communities. Historian C. Vann Woodward in 1951 wrote of Booker T. Washington, “The businessman’s gospel of free enterprise, competition, and laissez faire never had a more loyal exponent.”



Booker T. Washington’s U.S. Postal Stamp

Booker T. Washington was honored on a Famous Americans Series’ Commemorative U.S. Postage stamp, issue of 1940. US Post Office – US Post Office / Gwillhickers: Image obtained from hi-res scan of US Postage stamp from private collection.
Public Domain
File: Booker T Washington 1940 Issue-10c.jpg
Created: 31 December 1939

Honors and memorials

List of honors and memorials named after Booker T. Washington for his contributions to American society;

*Honorary Master’s Degree from Harvard
*University1896 Honorary Doctorate from Dartmouth College in 1901
*Booker T. Washington Monument Tuskegee University
*First Negro American on a U.S. postage stamp 1940
*First Negro American on U.S. Minted Coin: Half Dollar
*The House in Franklin County, Virginia, where Booker T. Washington was born is now a National Monument
*A state park in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was named in his honor, as was a bridge spanning the Hampton River adjacent to his alma mater, Hampton University.
*In 1984 Hampton University dedicated a Booker T. Washington Memorial on campus near the historic Emancipation Oak, establishing, in the words of the University, “a relationship between one of America’s great educators and social activists, and the symbol of Negro achievement in education.”
*Numerous high schools, middle schools and elementary schools across the United States have been named after Booker T. Washington.
*In 2000, West Virginia State University (WVSU; then West Va. State College), in cooperation with other organizations including the Booker T. Washington Association, established the Booker T. Washington Institute, to honor Washington’s boyhood home, the old town of Malden, and Washington’s ideals.
*On October 19, 2009, WVSU dedicated a monument to Booker T. Washington. The event took place at WVSU’s Booker T. Washington Park in Malden, West Virginia.
*The monument also honors the families of Negro ancestry who lived in Old Malden in the early 20th century and who knew and encouraged Washington.


Booker T. Washington National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Billy Hathorn, the Sculpture is by Richmond Barthe – Own work.  I took photo with Canon camera at National Portrait Gallery of Booker T. Washington sculpture.
Public Domain
File: Booker T. Washington sculpture at National Portrait Gallery IMG 4385.JPG
Created: 29 July 2011 

Lifting the Veil


‘Lifting the Veil’ Monument has inscription that reads:

Booker T. Washington lifted the veil of ignorance from his people and pointed the way to progress through education and industry.”

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