Booker T. Washington Essay

Born as Booker Taliaferro on April 5, 1856 to a slave named Jane and her white master, Booker T. Washington grew to become a prominent African American educator, author, and author, as well as advisor to Republican presidents (Wiki). He was considered the most significant black educator due to his control over the flow of funds to black schools and universities (Wormser).

After the Emancipation Proclamation led them to be freed, Jane moved her family to rejoin her husband in West Virginia; there Washington worked in many different manual labor jobs, such as salt furnaces and coalmines, before making his way to seek his education at Hampton Institute (Wormser). Washington became a star student under the guidance of General Samuel Chapman Armstrong, the head of Hampton (Wormser). After working his way through Hampton, Washington attended college at Wayland Seminary, presently Virginia Union University (Wiki).

Returning to live with his family in Malden, West Virginia, Washington met and married his first wife, Fannie Smith, in 1881 (Wiki). That same year he returned to teach at Hampton. There General Armstrong told Washington of a letter he had received a letter from a gentleman in Alabama, asking him to recommend a white principal for a colored school in Tuskegee which was going to be opened (Wormser). In 1881, Washington founded Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute on the Hampton model in the Black Belt of Alabama (Wormser).

Forced to begin with a broken down building, Washington eventually won the trust of white Southerners and Northern philanthropists, in order to make Tuskegee into a model school of industrial education (Wormser). He reassured whites that nothing in his educational program defied white supremacy or presented economic competition with whites (Wormser). He accepted racial subordination as unavoidable, at least until blacks could prove themselves worthy of full civil and political rights (Wormser).

As far as blacks were concerned, Washington insisted that industrial education would enable them to lift themselves up and escape the deception of sharecropping and debt (Wormser). In September 1895, Washington became a national hero (Wormser). Invited to speak at the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, Washington publicly accepted disfranchisement and social segregation as long as whites would allow black economic progress, educational opportunity, and justice in the courts (Wormser).

"The wisest of my race understand that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremest folly and that progress in the enjoyment of all the privileges that will come to us must be the result of severe and constant struggle rather than artificial forcing. The opportunity to earn a dollar in a factory just now is worth infinitely more than to spend a dollar in an opera house" (Wormser). Washington built a nationwide link of supporters in many black communities, with black educators, businessmen, and ministers creating his central supporters (Wiki).

Northern critics called Washington’s followers the “Tuskegee Machine” (Wiki). Washington's 1895 Atlanta Exposition address was viewed as a "revolutionary moment” by both African-Americans and whites across the country (Wormser). At that time, W. E. B. Du Bois supported him, but they grew apart as Du Bois sought more action to remedy disenfranchisement and lower education (Wormser). After their falling out, Du Bois and his supporters referred to Washington's speech as the "Atlanta Compromise" to express their criticism that Washington was too accommodating to white interests (Wiki).

Along with Du Bois, he partly organized the "Negro exhibition" at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris, where photos, taken by his friend Frances Benjamin Johnston, of Hampton Institute's black students were displayed (Wiki). The exhibition expressed African Americans' positive contributions to American society (Wiki). Washington further publicized himself and his opinions by founding the National Negro Business League in 1900, and by publishing his autobiography in 1901, called “Up From Slavery” (Wormser).

Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, who were men with profound racial prejudices, used Washington because he accepted racial injustice (Wormser). He was able to recommend applicants for minor political posts that customarily were given to blacks. The entrepreneurs who controlled the financing of many black schools in the South depended upon his guidance as to which schools should receive funds. In 1903, Washington's policies received a challenge from within the black community (Wiki). W. E. B.

Du Bois, then a scholar at Atlanta University, criticized and disagreed with Washington's philosophy in the book, “The Souls of Black Folk” (Wormser). After 1909, Washington was criticized by the leaders of the new NAACP, especially W. E. B. Du Bois, who demanded a stronger tone of protest for advancement of civil rights needs (Wiki). Washington replied that confrontation would lead to disaster for the outnumbered blacks, and that cooperation with supportive whites was the only way to overcome pervasive racism in the long run (Wormser).

At the same time, he secretly funded litigation for civil rights cases, such as challenges to southern constitutions and laws that disfranchised blacks (Wiki). During a difficult period of transition, he did much to improve the working relationship between the races (Wormser). His work greatly helped blacks to achieve higher education, financial power and understanding of the U. S. legal system (Wormser). This contributed to blacks' attaining the skills to create and support the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, leading to the passage of important federal civil rights laws (Wormser).

An structured opposition to Washington grew within the black intellectual community, but as far as the bulk of middle-class and working-class blacks were concerned, Washington remained their man (Wormser). His reputation enabled him to counteract disapproval, sometimes by scheming means such as bribing newspapers to report wrong and faultfinding reports of his opponents (Wormser). Because of his appearance as a peacemaker, Washington could rarely complain of injustice publicly. Yet, behind the scenes, he did finance court cases challenging segregation and tried to diminish some of its extremes.

When Woodrow Wilson became president in 1913, Washington lost his impact in the federal government, when Wilson attempted to continue and expand racial segregation (Wiki). Meanwhile, a new era had begun in the black community, and a younger generation would no longer accept white supremacy (Wiki). Under the leadership of Du Bois and others, they would begin to demand their political and civil rights. WORKS CITED Wormser, Richard. "The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow. " PBS. PBS, 2002. Web. 08 Feb. 2013. "Booker T. Washington. " Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 June 2013. Web. 08 Feb. 2013.