The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Washington, Booker Taliaferro

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WASHINGTON, wŏsh'ĭng-tȯn, Booker Taliaferro, American negro educator: b. near Hale's Ford, Franklin County, Va., about 1858; d. 14 Nov. 1915. After the Civil War he went to Malden, W. Va., where he worked first in a salt-furnace and afterward in a coal-mine, obtained some rudiments of education in a night-school there, and finally after many difficulties, recounted in the autobiography ‘Up from Slavery’ (1901), got to the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (Va.) (q.v.), where he studied in 1872-75, After a two-years' interval of teaching at Malden, he obtained further training at the Wayland Seminary (Washington D. C.), and in 1879 was made an instructor at Hampton. He had charge of the work of the Indian pupils then being experimentally introduced into the institution and established the night-school as a regular and successful feature of the institute. In 1881 he was selected by Gen. S. C. Armstrong of Hampton on the application of citizens of Tuskegee, Ala., to start in that place in institution on the plan of Hampton. The State legislature granted an appropriation of $2,000 annually for the salaries of the teaching force, but the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (q.v.) then existed in name only, without land, buildings or credit. Washington, with himself as the only instructor, opened the school with an enrolment of 30 in an old church and a shanty. Later he purchased a plantation about a mile from Tuskegee, and removed the school thither to its present site. In 1918 the institution had 191 officers and instructors, 1,451 students and over 2,500 graduates. Its development was due chiefly to the activity of Washington in bringing the nature and merits of the work to public attention, and the originality and effectiveness of his methods. He has aimed to give the blacks a practical education along lines of trade and industry, leading to an ultimate position of economic independence in the South. If this were attained he asserted, political rights now denied would not long be withheld. He became well known as a forceful public speaker, his most noteworthy address probably being that given in 1895 at the opening of the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, Ga. He organized the National Negro Business League at Boston in 1900. Among his writings are ‘The Future of the American Negro’ (1899); ‘Up from Slavery’ (1901), the interesting autobiographical narrative referred to above; ‘Character-Building’ (1902), collected addresses to pupils of Tuskegee; and ‘The Story of the Negro’ (1909); ‘The Man Farthest Down’ (1912). Consult Thrasher, M. B., ‘Tuskegee’ (1900), to which Washington contributed an introduction; an article by W. D. Howells (in the North American Review, Vol. 173, pp. 280-288, 1901); his ‘Life’ by Stone and Scott (Garden City 1916); and Riley, D. F., ‘The Life and Times of Booker T. Washington’ (New York 1916).