Booker Taliaferro Washington was a dominant figure of his time in American history. Washington was born in April 1856 in America. He is a renowned educator, orator, a political leader and author during late 19th century and early 20th century. Washington was a representative of the black African American Community fro 1890 to around 1915. He spoke fearlessly on behalf of the last generation of Black Americans Slaves, especially those in the South. Some of the reasons that made Washington successful despite the widespread criticism from the opposing whites were; the support he solicited from the sympathizing whites, support from the black business and religious community. It can also be reported that Washington had the ability to raise some funds from the philanthropists. Coupled with his widely praised political realities during the Jim Crow segregation era, Booker Washington managed to be a convincing campaigner of Black American civil rights.
Many would think that Washington was born in an affluent Black family in America. This is not true as he was born of a slave mother and a neighboring white planter in the rural Southwestern Virginia. Even though he had hardship during his life as young man, he abandoned his manual jobs to seek education in Hampton Agricultural institute. He also attended a college in Wayland Seminary returning to Hampton as a teacher. On his return to Hampton as a teacher, Washington was made the was Tuskegee institute. In 1895, Washington gained popularity among the political leaders when he made the spokesperson of African American citizens. Washington realized that he could only work well with support of the majority of powerful individuals. He therefore sought for a network of powerful blacks, some of them ministers and prominent business people.
Washington’s Role in the History of Black Americans
Washington played a very dominant role in the history of Black Americans during his time. He did the unexpected; he won the trust of the liberal whites and the entire black community. He slowly gained access to the high ranking national leadership in education, philanthropy and even politics. Some of his major achievements included establishments of several community schools and institutions of higher learning in the black community. Washington attained this by cooperating with the affluent liberal whites to raise the funds.
Washington did not go without receiving criticism from the Northerners, who called his southern followers the Tuskegee Machine. After 1909, Washington even faced more challenges as more groups demand active protests and demonstrations for civil rights of the blacks. Washington did not buy the ideas of stronger protest for civil rights as he claimed that the far much outnumbered blacks were in the danger of harm in case of such protests. He categorically stated that corporation with the supportive liberal whites was the only way to overcome the segregation in the long run. He just didn’t stop at this; he secretly funded the civil rights cases. For instance, he challenged the segregating southern laws and constitution.
Washington is also remembered for his major contribution in education of blacks and the entire American history. He published several books which are still read in America up to date. In the hard times of transition, Washington did a lot to ensure corporation between the various races in America. The educational, political, financial power and legal system background that the African Americans enjoy today can be largely attributed to Washington’s tireless work. Long after Washington’s death in 1960s, his skills were still useful in the civil rights movements and the adoption of the civil rights laws. From the thousands of schools that Washington had founded, teachers were produced. The teachers were sent back to their own rural communities after training where they taught in the rural schools that Washington had founded in these areas.
In Washington’s efforts during this short in service, he founded about five thousand schools in the rural South. These schools were source of pride and life to the African Americans in the south. The education of this community during this period and beyond is therefore largely attributed to Booker Washington. Washington was also considered to be the eye opener to African American business society as he founded the National Negro Business League.
As a 25 year old Washington was picked to be the leader of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. Washington did believe that self help could help move people to success from poverty. From a school that was opened in a church in 1881, Washington had a campus within a short time. He helped the group to acquire land in a former plantation, mobilized the students to construct their own school and convinced them to successful farming so that they could fund for their necessities. The young men and women under Washington’s watch had to learn how to trade while they acquired their education. In the Tuskegee faculty, the students were convinced to take their education back to their rural community so that teachers of trades and farming could be deployed back in black south colleges. This Tuskegee school has since grown to the present day Tuskegee University that provides several thousands of American students with education. Washington believed that by doing his part of providing education to his race, they would do their part to overcome the life challenges that they went through. In his efforts, Washington believed that the blacks would one day gain the acceptance of the white and be allowed to participate in the American society freely. Washington led the Tuskegee School until the time of his death in 1915 when the school endowment had risen to over $ 1.5 million compared to $ 2,000 when he took over.
Washington’s Revolutionary Activity
Washington’s popularity and woos both began in 1895 when he delivered a speech that was considered revolutionary both by the Black Americans and the whites. His woos started when he fell out with Du Bois who had initially supported his 1895 speech. Du Bois who was then in support of much stronger protests for black’s civil rights changed to term Washington’s 1895 speech as Atlanta Compromise. DU Bois and his suppers said that the speech was very accommodating to the whites’ interests. Washington on the other hand was for a go slow approach to the black’s civil rights. He suggested that instead of the Black Americans going for violent protests, they should concentrate on creating wealth, acquiring education and conciliating the south. Washington believed that these would create the right foundation for the African Americans to eventually gain full participation in the American society. This was his way of proving to the segregating whites that the Black Americans were not incompetent, naturally foolish and poor. Washington’s ability to persuade the affluent whites to donate money for African American cause helped in the establishment of the black society. He worked together and socialized with various white industry leaders, businessmen and even politicians. Washington realized that the stronger protests could only be aimed at achieving too much at a time, which he termed as impossible.
Due to his corporation efforts, Washington made friendship with some wealthy benefactors. Some of these people were Henry Rogers, George Eastman, William Howard, Andrew Carnegie, Anna T. Jeanes, and Julius Rosenwald among others. These people are known to have supported Washington a lot in his work. Anna Jeanes for instance donated one million dollars for that Washington used to fund elementary schools in poor black communities. Rogers on the other hand funded a $ 40 million for the Virginia railway project which improved access to area possible for easier trade. He also funded for the development of elementary schools in this black dominated area.
With Booker T. Washington’s efforts, Black Americans can today have equal opportunities with whites in America. This is because Washington realized that the power to success lies not in forceful protests but in education and strong financial base. By investing in education of the blacks and by spearheading formation of various business communities, Washington was able to liberate his race. As many would today say, Washington removed the veil of ignorance that had blinded his people. He showed them the way to success through education and industry.