Note: Above picture was edited from the original. This is a picture of the Tuskegee Institute. Click to see the original.

What should be learned from this page

What was Booker T. Washington's big contribution to the Civil Rights movement?
What was Booker T. Washington most know for?
What was Booker T. Washington's conflict with W.E.B. DuBois?

Quick Overview

Booker T. Washington
"I have learnt 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 overcome while trying to succeed." - Booker T. Washington

Booker T. Washington was born a slave on April 5, 1856. Booker did many things in his life including being a speaker, leader, and principal. He was freed from his master as a effect from the Civil War. Booker a major leader of the African American community until his death, along with running the Tuskegee Institute. The Tuskegee Institute was created as a teacher's college for African Americans. His action in the Civil Rights movement included his speech "Atlanta Exposition" in 1895 which held many of the abolitionist until the 1960s where black leaders started to adopt a more radical approach to gaining civil rights.

Early Life

Booker Taliaferro Washington was born on April 5, 1856. He was born a slave to James Burroughs but luckily for Booker in 1865 he became a free person because of the result of the civil war. But Booker's family was very poor so at the age of nine he was working in salt furnaces and coal mines. Working in a coal mine or a salt furnace was hard enough for adults let alone a nine year old boy. Booker was always described as a smart child and he always wanted to learn more but there were few schools that could give blacks a good education. But at the age of sixteen his parents allowed him to attend college. Booker as you could imagine had no money at all so he worked as the janitor at Hampton Institute in order to pay his tuition. Washington soon became a teach and at the young age of twenty-five he founded the Tuskegee University.

Tuskegee Institute

Tuskegee Institute
At the young age of 25 Booker became the principal of the newly founded Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. The school was opened on July 4, 1881 and classes were originally held in a local church. This school started with thirty black male and females. The school required that both men and women learned both academics and trades. Booker as leader of the institution traveled the country raising funds from both blacks and whites. This is how Booker started to become know as a good speaker.

The next year Booker bought the land of a former plantation and under Booker and other instructors’ direction the students built the buildings for the school. These buildings included barns, classrooms, and outbuildings. The students would also grow their own crops, raise livestock, and provide for most of their basic needs.
Classroom in Tuskegee Institute

Booker was set on bringing the best teachers to Tuskegee because he committed to learning and wanted others who shared that commitment to have the best. Booker believed that a little self help was needed for a person to get a good education and rise to the top. Tuskegee was the product of Booker’s commitment to learn, self help, practical training, and service to the community. Teachers trained to work and help rural communities.

Students attending the Tuskegee Institute were not only taught academics, but were also taught building construction, handicraft, agriculture, brick making, woodworking, and many other useful skills. Men and women were separated in training and physical training was encouraged greatly. Students needed a healthy body to complete the work at Tuskegee. Religious worship also took place at Tuskegee, with students attending a daily chapel service. Female students learned home economics, and clothes making. Also they would make brooms, rugs, chairs, and other essentials. For many years these were used to dress the students and furnish the buildings.

Booker, a hands on type of principal, was involved in every detail of his school. Booker watched over the staff and students, publicized the school, checked to see the instruction was up to par, made sure the campus grounds and buildings were in good condition, and made sure students were compliant. Booker took to great lengths to make sure Tuskegee kept its excellent reputation.

Booker T. Washington V.S. W.E.B. DuBois

Booker T Washington and W.E.B. DuBois had different views on the Civil Rights movement. Booker's view of it was peaceful and non violent (such as Martin Luther King Jr.) while W.E.B. Du Bois had assertive point of view and thought sometimes you need to fight (such as Malcolm X.) Booker T. Washington also thought that blacks and whites should have the same rights but they should be segregated "like fingers on the same hand."
W.E.B. DuBois

When Booker gave the "Atlanta Exposition" he said that the whites in the south should hire more African Americans to do work instead of waiting for more immigrants to come to America. Basically he said there are 8 million African Americans and they should be hired to do physical labor and work on plantations and in exchange blacks would give up demanding their rights. Many whites supported what Booker T. Washington as well as middle class Africans. W.E.B. DuBois didn't like Booker's views, DuBois believed that Africans should demand their rights. Booker believed that they shouldn't worry about all of their rights until they could support themselves financially and they could get an "industrial" education than eventually they could work towards obtaining their rights. But as you know the majority of people believed DuBois was right and DuBois' role in the Civil Rights movement out shined Booker T. Washington's role.

Although Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois had different views on the Civil Rights the important thing is they tried to do what they thought was best for the black people in America.They both were working towards the goal of equal right, but Booker's way was going to take more time and so people took towards W.E.B. DuBois because if he could make it happen his change would come much quicker. Although they were both working on towards the same goal they remained rivals until Booker's death because of their different views.

The Oaks and Family Life

The Oaks at Tuskegee Institute
The Oaks was Booker’s house on the campus of the Tuskegee Institute. This was where Booker maintained his school when not out raising funds or being directly involved in school activities. The Oaks was built for Booker and his family to live comfortably. The family moved into the house in 1900 and Booker along with his wife Margaret lived there until death.

In this house educators, businessmen, and farmers were entertained. Many times the staff would visit and call on Sunday, but Booker often stayed his him office while his wife took care of the faculty. This was a place for on the job and employment training. Most of the furniture in the house was made by local craftspeople and students of the institute. The house had steam heating and electricity which was a first in Macon County. The house included a parlor, library, dining room, den, kitchen, breakfast room, five bathrooms, a veranda, as well as family and guest rooms. The Oaks was on three acres of gardens, orchards, and pastures.

The 25th anniversary of Tuskegee in 1906 brought many important people to The Oaks. Among these people were Secretary of War William Howard Taft, Harvard president Charles W. Eliot, and Andrew Carnegie. The Oaks also was the reception place for Theodore Roosevelt and held the wedding of Booker’s daughter Portia.
Booker T. Washington with Family

Booker was married three times, and each of these wives were given credit for helping at Tuskegee in his autobiography Up From Slavery. Booker’s first two wives, Fannie N. Smith and Olivia A. Davidson, died before he did so he married again. His last marriage was with Margaret J. Murray who he had not kids with, but she helped with the bring up of his other three kids. He there kids were Portia who he had with Fannie, and Ernest and Booker Jr. who he had with Olivia.

After a speaking tour Booker was put into a hospital in New York City because of what is now believed as kidney failure. Booker knew he had a short time to live and said “I was born in the South, I have lived and labored in the South, and I expect to be buried in the South.” Booker wanted to be back home and that was done. Booker T. Washington died at the Tuskegee Institute on November 14, 1915.


Picture Links