Booker T. Washington Life and Career

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Booker Taliaferro Washington was an African American who was inbred in slavery. His birth date was on April 5th, 1856 and died on November 14, 1915, due to high blood pressure. He worked as a slave on the Burroughs Plantation located in Hale’s Ford, Virginia. He had a total of 3 siblings. Two of his siblings (John and Amanda) were his own blood, and the third, James, was adopted. Jane, his mother, was a slave cook at the plantation. He did not really know his biological father, but his mother, Jane, married Washington Ferguson, who is also a slave who departed to Virginia.

Washington’s early life was very terrible. As a child, he slept in a very small cabin with ground and dirt as the floor. His mother had a hard time feeding them. Occasionally, she would steal extra food, like chicken and eggs, from her owners just so her kids would have something to eat. Working was very hard for Booker, but the clothing he had on, added to the difficulty of working. He wore the same shirt for 6 weeks until he can get a new shirt and his shoes were not like the kind this generation has. The bottom of his shoes were made of wood and is covered with a leather body.

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Booker T. Washington was very enthusiastic about education. He first learned how to read and write from a book his mother gave him. Back then, he would travel 500 miles to go to Hampton University located in Virginia. He also applied for many jobs to pay for his tuition and begged the administrators to let him attend school. When the owner of the school saw him, he offered him a scholarship. Around 1881, General Armstrong, the owner of Hampton University was asked to recommend a white person to run the newly built “colored” school, known as the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (Tuskegee University). Instead of a white man, he recommended Booker T. Washington as the president of the school. With Washington as the new president, he vowed not to let the Tuskegee Program threaten white supremacy and create any economic rivalry to the white people.

With Booker as the president of Tuskegee University, it became one of the best schools in Virginia. He based the school’s syllabus on himself. He taught the school the struggles of being African American. For example, he taught how patience is key for the economic success of the African-Americans. He also taught that in order to gain respect from the Whites and other races, the African’Americans must first work extremely hard to acquire money and be advanced with their culture. Around 1895, he gave a speech in Atlanta, which was known as the “Atlanta Compromise” In his speech, he stated that the Blacks must accept being deprived of privilege as long as the Whites treat them equally. This angered many African-Americans and Washington was criticized by W.E.B Du Bois for not asking for fairness between the two races. Although he tried many times to help make the African-American lives better, it still did not stand a chance because of the Jim Crow Laws and the Black Codes.

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Booker T. Washington Life and Career. (2022, Feb 14). Retrieved from

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