Booker T. Washington was important to me because he believed in going to school. He was born a slave and slaves weren’t allowed to go to school. Booker was 10 when the slaves were freed. He eventually left his family and traveled to Hampton Institute in Virginia and became the best student. When a new school opened in Alabama Booker became the teacher. By 1900, Booker T. Washington had become the voice of blacks that wanted an education. He believed blacks and whites could be equal if everyone went to school.
When the slaves were freed in 1856, Booker’s family moved to Virginia. He worked in a salt mine until he saved enough money to travel from one side of Virginia to the other to go to school. After he finished school, he became a teacher until 1881 when a principal position opened in Alabama. Booker moved there and started the Tuskegee Institute. He taught his students to be hard-working and he believed African American’s could be equal to whites if educated, even during segregation.
Civil rights advocates didn’t think like Booker T. Washington. Rich white southerners did give him moral support and money to run the Tuskegee Institute. He did speak out against racism in his life and also said that he believed African American’s should have the right to vote. He wasn’t alive during the civil rights era, but he did give money to fight discrimination and segregation. After Booker T. Washington died in 1915, the Tuskegee Institute became a historical site.
Booker T Washington learned very young that black people were required to work very hard. One thing Booker had to do as a child was carry 100 pound sacks of grain to his plantation’s mill. One day on the way to the mill Booker looked in the window of a school house and saw all the white children his age sitting at desks and reading books. This made him determined to become educated. Once free, his mother bought him a book that he used to teach himself to read and write.
In 1866, Booker began working for Viola Ruffner. She was strict but she thought Booker was more mature, more intelligent and had more integrity than the other boys working for her. Viola saw his desire for education and allowed him to attend school for an hour a day in the winter months. Eventually Booker saved enough money to walk 500 miles to the Hampton Institute. He worked as a janitor to be able to afford school.
The school’s founder, General Samuel C. Armstrong, noticed how hard Booker worked and how determined he was to graduate and offered him a scholarship paid for by a white man. In 1881, General Armstrong was asked to recommend a white man to run Tuskegee University. Armstrong recommended Booker instead. Tuskegee is where Booker became an educator, author, fund raiser and public speaker. Booker traveled around the country raising funds from mostly rich white men.
Tuskegee became a leading school in the country during Booker’s life. When Booker died in 1915 the school had more than 100 buildings, 1500 students, and 200 teachers. Booker T. Washington was considered a national spokesman for educated black people. In 1895 he gave a speech known as the “Atlanta Compromise” where he stated segregation was fine as long as whites allowed blacks to earn the same amount of money, receive the same education and receive equal justice in the courts.
In 1901 Booker became the first African American to visit the White House after President Roosevelt invited him. Booker then wrote his autobiography, Up From Slavery. He started to lose his popularity in 1913 and in 1915 died of a heart attack.
Booker T. Washington helped pave the way for me to be able to go to school with my neighbors and friends. We are all equal now. I don’t think Booker believed that my friends of all skin colors and me would ever be together at school and equal. He died before the civil rights era really started. Jim Crow laws made it hard to believe that in 2013 the United States would have a black president.
I think Booker was scared of retaliation because 100 years ago he secretly financed court cases challenging segregation. He was brave though. He walked 500 miles to go to school. That is amazing. I believe my sources gave an honest account of Booker T. Washington because all the information I read stated the same facts.
Bibliography – Schroeder, Alan. Booker T. Washington. New York: Chelsea House, 1992. Print. "Booker T. Washington." Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, 2013. Web. 20 Mar. 2013.