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Booker T. Washington

Educator

Born: 5 April 1856
Died: 14 November 1915
Birthplace: Franklin County, Virginia
Best known as: The black educator who started the Tuskegee Institute

Name at birth: Booker Taliaferro Washington

Booker T. Washington was born a slave and deprived of any early education, but he still became America's leading black educator at the start of the 20th century. Booker T. Washington was the first teacher and principal of the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama, a school for African-Americans where he championed learning and job training as the path to black self-reliance and success in America. Well-known as a powerful speaker, Washington also wrote the best-selling autobiography Up From Slavery in 1901, and advised Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft on race relations. His rather flaccid nickname of "The Great Accommodator" offers a clue as to why he was later criticized by W. E. B. Du Bois and the N.A.A.C.P., who rejected Washington's idea that blacks should accept an inferior status for the present as they worked to improve themselves for the future. Booker T. Washington was principal of Tuskegee Institute from 1881 until his death in 1915; it was originally called the Normal School for Colored Teachers and is now known as Tuskegee University.

Extra credit: Booker T. Washington's middle name was Taliaferro... According to the Tuskegee University website, Booker T. Washington was married three times: to Fannie Smith from 1882 until her death in 1884; to Olivia Davis, from 1885 until her death in 1889; and Margaret Murray, from 1893 until his death in 1915... He was unrelated to President George Washington or botanist George Washington Carver... The Tuskegee Institute was the training ground for the Tuskegee Airmen, the famous all-black flying squadron of World War II.

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