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Booker T. Washington's Visit to Spokane (1913)

In 1913 the famous African American activist and educator Booker T. Washington left Tuskegee, Alabama, to begin a speaking tour around the United States. The ultimate goal of this tour was to raise funds for the Tuskegee Institute in order to educate more young African Americans. Washington began touring the Northwest, a place he had never before seen, in March of 1913, beginning with Montana, before traveling further west through Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. Along the way, while commenting on the impressive features of the Pacific Northwest landscape, he spent three days in Spokane, Washington, visiting several local landmarks and speaking to numerous audiences in the city.

Booker T. Washington’s message of self-help and uplift in order to improve the standing of the African American in America resonated well with people of all races in Spokane. Many leaders of the black community in the young city closely heeded his words, including Reverend Peter Barrow, who was inspired by Washington to create a large African American-operated apple orchard north of Spokane. When he arrived in Spokane, Washington was well received, and as a result, his three days were quite busy.

Washington spoke to nine separate audiences during his visit. Among these was Lewis and Clark High School, a new school where its cornerstone had been laid a few short years earlier by President Theodore Roosevelt, a friend of Washington’s. Here Washington spoke of his young days as a slave, as well as his experiences founding and running the Tuskegee Institute and the importance of education.

Washington also spoke at the Spokane Federation of Women’s Clubs. The Federation hosted a reception for the Tuskegee educator.  Washington was expecting to speak to a group of all-white women. When he arrived, though, he discovered that the members of the Colored Women’s Club were invited to hear him speak as well. After he inquired, he discovered that it was a normal occurrence for the groups to meet together in Spokane. Washington realized, however, that