Booker T. Washington , in full Booker Taliaferro Washington (born April 5, 1856, Franklin county, Virginia, U.S.—died November 14, 1915, Tuskegee, Alabama.), educator and reformer, first president and principal developer of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (now Tuskegee University), and the most influential spokesman for black Americans between 1895 and 1915.
He was born in a slave hut but, after emancipation, moved with his family to Malden, West Virginia. Dire poverty ruled out regular schooling; at age nine he began working, first in a salt furnace and later in a coal mine. Determined to get an education, he enrolled at the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (now Hampton University) in Virginia (1872), working as a janitor to help pay expenses. He graduated in 1875 and returned to Malden, where for two years he taught children in a day school and adults at night. Following studies at Wayland Seminary, Washington, D.C. (1878–79), he joined the staff of Hampton.
In 1881 Washington was selected to head a newly established normal school for African Americans at Tuskegee, an institution with two small converted buildings, no equipment, and very little money. Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute became a monument to his life’s work. At his death 34 years later, it had more than 100 well-equipped buildings, some 1,500 students, a faculty of nearly 200 teaching 38 trades and professions, and an endowment of approximately $2 million.
From 1895 until his death in 1915, Booker T. Washington, a former slave who had built Tuskegee Institute in Alabama into a major centre of industrial training for African American youths, was the country’s dominant black leader. In a speech made in Atlanta in 1895, Washington called on both African Americans and whites to “cast down your bucket where you are.” He urged whites to...
Washington believed that the best interests of black people in the post-Reconstruction era could be realized through education in the crafts and industrial skills and the