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Table of Contents
Booker T. Washington was a prominent African-American educator, author, political adviser, and leader of the black middle-class and elite in the post-Civil War United States. He was one of the last generations of African-Americans born into slavery. For more information, see the Booker T. Washington fact file below or download the 34 page comprehensive worksheet pack which can be utilized within the classroom or home environment.
EARLY AND PERSONAL LIFE
- Booker Taliaferro Washington was born on April 5, 1856, in Franklin County, Virginia. His mother, Jane, worked as a cook for plantation owner James Burroughs. His father was an unknown white man, most likely from a nearby plantation.
- During this era, the child of an enslaved person also became enslaved, and Booker carried sacks of grain to the plantation mill and was beaten on occasion for not performing his duties well.
- After the emancipation and the Civil War, Booker and his mother moved to Malden, West Virginia, where she married freedman Washington Ferguson, from whom Booker took his last name.
- In 1866, Washington got a job as a houseboy while attending grade school in Virginia.
- Washington married three times. First was Fannie N. Smith, whom she met while in West Virginia. Next was Olivia A. Davidson whom he had two sons, and last was Margaret James Murray.
- With the goal of education, Washington left home in 1872 and walked 500 miles to Hampton Normal Agricultural Institute in Virginia (now Hampton University). He convinced the school administrators to let him attend school and pay his tuition as a school janitor. Soon he was noticed by the school’s founder and headmaster, General Samuel C. Armstrong, who offered him a scholarship, and Armstrong later became his mentor.
- In 1875, Washington graduated from Hampton and taught at his old grade school in Malden, Virginia. He attended Wayland Seminary (now Virginia Union University) in Washington, D.C., and in 1879, was chosen to speak at Hampton’s graduation ceremonies, where General Armstrong then offered him a teaching job in his school.
- In 1881, the Alabama legislature approved a school for people of color – the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (now Tuskegee University), where General Armstrong recommended Washington to be head.
CONTRIBUTIONS & CONTROVERSIES
- Tuskegee became a leading school in the country as Washington put much of himself into the school’s curriculum, stressing the virtues of patience, enterprise, and thrift. They enlisted students in construction and cultivation.
- In 1895, Washington publicly put forth his philosophy on race relations in a speech at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia, known as the “Atlanta Compromise.” His speech made him popular among African-American educators, ministers, business people, and liberal white politicians.
- He said that African Americans should accept disenfranchisement and social segregation as long as whites allow them economic progress, educational opportunity, and justice in the courts. The African-American community, especially in the north, detested his philosophy.
- In 1912, Washington was acquainted with the owner of Sears Roebuck, Julius Rosenwald. Aside from being a successful businessman, Rosenwald was a philanthropist. He made substantial donations to the institute and collaborated with Tuskegee architects in building six model schools for African-American students. Henry Rogers of Standard Oil was also a known financier of Washington’s schools.
- Following the success of Rosenwald and Washington, the Rosenwald Foundation was established in 1917, which provided funds for the operation and maintenance of more than 5,000 African-American schools.
- In addition to heading the institute, Washington was a known adviser to US Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.
- An activist, W.E.B. Du Bois (who was working as a professor at Atlanta University at the time) criticized Washington for not demanding equality for African-Americans, as granted by the 14th Amendment.
- Throughout his life, Washington authored 14 books, one of which was his autobiography Up from Slavery (1901). Other publications included The Story of My Life and Work (1900), The Story of the Negro: The Rise of the Race from Slavery (1909), My Larger Education (1911), and The Man Farthest Down (1912). He spoke with great orators such as Mark Twain, Robert Curtis Ogden, and Joseph Hodges Choate.
- In 1900, Washington founded the National Negro Business League (NNBL) to promote and develop African-American enterprises. From its original headquarters in Boston, the NNBL grew to 320 chapters after 5 years and more than 600 chapters by 1915. Aside from African-American business people, the NNBL was supported by Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, prominent industrialists, and philanthropists.
- The NNBL had members who were farmers, doctors, craftsmen, and small-business owners. To promote economic and financial development for African-Americans, the NNBL was reincorporated in 1966 as the National Business League.
- Following the death of Washington in 1915, the NNBL was headed by Robert Russa Moton.
DEATH AND LEGACY
- President Roosevelt invited Washington to the White House in 1901, making Washington the first African-American to be given the honor. Both Roosevelt and his successor, Taft, used Washington as an adviser on racial matters, partly because he accepted racial subservience.
- His White House visit and the publication of his autobiography, Up from Slavery, brought him both acclaim and indignation from many Americans.
- While Washington was openly seen as a supporter of African-Americans taking a “back seat” to whites, he secretly financed several court cases challenging segregation. By 1913, he had lost much of his influence, and the Wilson administration supported racial integration and African-American equality.
- Washington remained the head of Tuskegee Institute until his death on November 14, 1915, of congestive heart failure at the age of 59.
- On November 17, 1915, his funeral was held at the Tuskegee Institute Chapel and attended by about 8,000 people.
- In 2006, his descendants permitted a medical examination on Washington’s remains. It was found that he died of kidney failure aggravated with hypertension.
- Booker T. Washington was the first African-American to be depicted on the US postage stamp in 1940. Two years later, the liberty ship was named after him. In 1946, a half dollar featured Washington as the first African-American to be depicted in a coin.
- During his lifetime, Washington was heavily criticized by African-American abolitionists, and they believed that he accommodated white supremacy and racial segregation. By the 20th century, historians have divided views of Washington. Some described him as a pursuer of African-American literacy and economic independence, and others say he was a self-serving and altruistic leader.
Booker T. Washington Worksheets
This bundle includes 34 pages of ready-to-use Booker T. Washington worksheets that are perfect for students to learn about Booker Taliaferro Washington who was an African-American educator, author, orator, and advisor to presidents of the United States. Between 1890 and 1915, Washington was the dominant leader in the African-American community.
This download includes the following worksheets:
- Booker T. Washington Facts
- BTW Facts
- Into the White House
- Opposing Views
- Choosing Sides
- Truth About Booker
- BTW Writings
- Famous Quotes
- The Atlanta Exposition
- My Exposition
Frequently Ask Questions
What is Booker T. Washington known for?
Booker T. Washington was an African-American educator, reformer, and head o the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute.
What did Booker T. Washington do for civil rights?
Booker T. Washington advocated African-American literacy and economic opportunities.
What are 3 interesting facts about Booker T. Washington?
He was the first African-American featured on a US postage stamp and coin. He served as an advisor to US presidents Roosevelt and Taft. He started a program to build 5,000 schools for African-American children.
Did Booker T. Washington go to Harvard?
In 1896, Washington was granted an honorary Master of Arts degree from Harvard University.
Was Booker T. Washington educated?
In 1875, Booker T. Washington graduated from Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute. From 1878 to 79, he studied at Wayland Seminary in Washington, D.C.
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