Booker T. Washington was an African-American educator, author, orator, national hero, and advisor to presidents of the United States. For a period of time between 1890 and 1915, Washington was the dominant leader among African-Americans and has been called “the most famous black man in America” during that period.
Booker Taliaferro Washington was born a slave on April 5, 1856, on a small farm in the backcountry near Hale’s Ford, Virginia, to Jane Ferguson. As a child he worked in the salt furnaces and coal mines of West Virginia but was determined to get an education. He attended Wayland Seminary (1878-1879) and Hampton University (1875. He was a good student and did well under the guidance of General Samuel Chapman, head of Hampton. Washington was teaching at Hampton when General Armstrong told him about a letter he had received from some “gentlemen in Alabama” requesting a recommendation for a white principal for a colored school they wished to open in Tuskegee. Washington founded Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in 1881, using the Hampton model. He began with a broken down building and turned it into a model school.
Washington married three times: Fannie N. Smith (1882-1884, her death), Olivia A. Davidson (1886-1889, her death), and Margaret James Murray (1893-1915, his death). His children include Portia M. Washington, Booker T. Washington, Jr., and Ernest Davidson Washington. Washington died at age 59 on November 14, 1915, in Tuskegee, Alabama.
The following quotes from Washington show that he was intelligent and had common sense.
“Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.”
“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.”
“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.”
“Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way.”
“Associate yourself with people of good quality, for it is better to be alone than in bad company.”
“Character is power.”
“Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him.”
“Success in life is founded upon attention to the small things rather than to the large things; to the everyday things nearest to us rather than to the things that are remote and uncommon.”
“If you can’t read, it’s going to be hard to realize dreams.”
“One man cannot hold another man down in the ditch without remaining down in the ditch with him.”
“At the bottom of education, at the bottom of politics, even at the bottom of religion, there must be for our race economic independence.”
“There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.”