Booker Taliaferro Washington

1856-1915
Educator, Author

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Born in Virginia in 1856, Booker Taliaferro Washington spent most of his life in Alabama where he is forever remembered as "The Father of Negro Education". Born into slavery, he overcame poverty by working hard to finance his college education at Hampton Institute. He rose from obscurity to achieve national acclaim. He was honored by two Presidents of the United States and recognized with honorary degrees by numerous universities including Dartmouth and Harvard Universities. In 1881, Mr. Washington accepted the offer to start a new school for African Americans in Tuskegee, Alabama. He was only 25 years old when he opened the school in an abandoned shack near a Methodist Church. From this frugal beginning , with the help of student labor, charitable gifts and aid from the community, Mr. Washington founded and developed the Tuskegee Normal and Agricultural Institute. During the 34 years that he was president, the school grew to encompass 100 well-equipped buildings, 1500 students, 200 teachers and an endowment exceeding two million dollars. From the time in 1895 when Mr. Washington spoke at the Atlanta Exposition and received the praises of President Cleveland and Governor Bullock of Georgia, he became nationally acclaimed and very much in demand as a speaker.

The National Negro Business League, founded in 1900, mirrored the Tuskegee philosophy.

Washington's fame was also spread by his writings, especially his autobiography, Up From Slavery, espousing initiative and hard work. Other works include Putting the Most Into Life, Tuskegee and Its People, The Negro in Business, the Negro in the South, and My Larger Education.

In 1902 Washington attended national conventions of the National Afro-American Council, taking a conspicuous part.

He won praise from Andrew Carnegie as "certainly one of the most wonderful men living or who has ever lived." Many other industrial, intellectual and religious leaders were laudatory of his efforts.

Washington died November 14, 1915. He was in New York City when he realized the end was near and wished to return to Tuskegee. Nearly 8,000 persons attended his funeral. He was buried in a brick tomb made by the students on a hill commanding a view of the institute he founded and loved.