The Life Story of Booker T. Washington

 by G. Holden Pike


The Life Story of Booker T. Washington by G. Holden Pike book cover
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From Slave to College President

Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) was an American educator, orator, author and leader of the African-American community. He was freed from slavery as a child, and after working at several menial jobs in West Virginia, earned his way through an education at Hampton Institute and Wayland Seminary. Upon recommendation of Hampton founder Sam Armstrong, as a young man, he was appointed as the first leader of the new Tuskegee Institute, then a teachers' college for blacks.

Washington believed that education was a crucial key to African American citizens rising within the social and economic structure of the United States. He rose into a nationally prominent role as spokesman and leader for them. Although his non-confrontational approach was criticized by some blacks (notably W.E.B. Du Bois who labeled Washington "the Great Accommodator"), he was successful in building relationships with major philanthropists such as Anna T. Jeanes, Henry Huddleston Rogers, Julius Rosenwald, and the Rockefeller family who to contributed millions of dollars for education at Hampton, Tuskegee and helped pay for hundreds of public schools for black children in the South, as well as to donate to legal challenges to segregation and disfranchisement.

The recipient of honorary degrees from Dartmouth College and Harvard University, and the first black to be an honored guest of a U.S. President at the White House, Dr. Washington was widely-regarded as the most powerful African-American man in the nation from 1895 until his death in 1915. Hundreds of schools and local features in the United States were named in his honor.

 

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