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Booker T Washington

Updated on December 1, 2016

Booker Taliaferro Washington,(1856-1915), US educator and reformer, born a slave in Franklin County, Virginia. After emancipation he went with his family to West Virginia. He attended a school for Negroes, and in 1892 went to the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Virginia. Later he became an educator, founding the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama (1881). The Institute grew and by his death had become the major educational institution for blacks. Washington was skillful in obtaining funds for the school, and in so doing became a prominent black leader. The school became famous for its hardworking students, and Washington emphasized the virtues of industrial training rather than liberal arts education. His personal philosophy and public policy is made clear in Up from Slavery, 1901, which should be read in conjunction with Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk, 1903, in order to appreciate the nature of the debate between black intellectuals at that time, a debate in which Washington represented the more influential wing. Shunned by many black intellectuals, Washington also set up the National Negro Business League. His other works include: Working with the Hands, 1904; Frederick Douglas, 1907; and The Story of the Negro, 1909.

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