The New International Encyclopædia/Washington, Booker Taliaferro
WASHINGTON, Booker Taliaferro (the child of a mulatto slave and of a white man) (c.1858—). An American negro educator, born near Hale's Ford, Franklin County, Va. He was a plantation slave, after the Civil War removed to Malden, W. Va., was there employed in a salt furnace, and later in a coal mine, and obtained his first instruction chiefly in a local night school. After much difficulty and hardship he made his way to the Hampton (Va.) Normal and Agricultural Institute, where he defrayed the cost of his board by acting as janitor, and studied for three years (1872-75). He then taught school for two years at Malden, studied further for eight months (1878-79) in the Wayland Seminary of Washington, D. C., and in 1879 was appointed an instructor in the Hampton Institute. There he was successful in directing the work of about 75 Indians of whose education General Armstrong was then making trial, and introduced and took charge of the night school, which soon became an important feature. In 1881 he was appointed to establish a colored normal school at Tuskegee, Ala., the State Legislature having granted an annual appropriation of $2000 to be used for the salaries of instructors. He opened the school in a dilapidated shanty and a church, with 30 scholars, and himself as the only teacher. Subsequently he transferred the school to its present site on a plantation bought for $500, about one mile from Tuskegee. His efforts to better the condition of this institution led to his appearance at many important public assemblages, both religious and secular, and his addresses on these occasions soon made him known as a remarkably fluent and effective speaker with a faculty for telling a homely story to illustrate his point. He became known, moreover, not only as a man who was tremendously in earnest, but as a far-sighted and practical reformer. His most notable address was that given at the opening of the Atlanta (Ga.) Cotton States and International Exposition in 1895. In 1900 he organized the National Negro Business League at Boston, Mass. His publications include: The Future of the American Negro (1899); a remarkable autobiography, Up from Slavery (1901, originally published in The Outlook in 1900-01); and Character-Building (1902), a collection of addresses to Tuskegee students. Consult also, Thrasher, Tuskegee; Its Story and Its Work (Boston, 1900), with an introduction by Washington. See Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute.