Booker T. Washington

By Amelia Lipcsei

An educator, reformer, and one of the most influential black leaders of his time, Booker T. Washington acts as an inspiration to all. Born into slavery in 1856, but freed after the Civil War, Washington endured a burdensome childhood. Having to work from 4-9 AM every morning before being able to attend school, he found himself unable to seek a proper education. However, his desire to learn compelled him to walk 500 miles to the Hampton Institute Boarding School, a school in southeastern Virginia for former slaves. There, he received excellent grades and proved to be a hardworking student. Chapman, the founder of the Hampton Institute, impressed by Washington’s skill invited him to return to Hampton as a teacher in 1879. Later, Chapman recommended that Washington head a newly established school for African American children in Alabama called the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. He took the job at age 25 and worked as principal there until his death in 1915. Over the course of his time at Tuskegee Washington established over 100 buildings with well-equipped resources, hired a staff of almost 200 faculty members, and left the school with an endowment of an astounding two million dollars. Likewise, he also sought to create strategies for black economic and social progress. His ideas inspired hundreds of thousands of black Americans, and even President Theodore Rosevelt saw him as an outstanding advisor for racial matters. In 1901, Rosevelt invited him to the White House, making Washington the first ever African American to be invited. Although many of his philosophical ideas were sharply challenged by individuals such as W.E.B Du Bois, Washington remains a brilliant figure of motivation, dedication, leadership, and true resilience.