During the progressive era in the late 1800’s, white people were in control of society. The blacks had been freed under the Emancipation Proclamation, but were not being treated equal. Mainly because they were black. But that was not the only reason. Blacks were also not treated equally because they did not possess the intelligence and skills of whites. A great man decided to fight for equality between blacks and whites. His name was Booker Taliaferro Washington.
Booker T. Washington was born into slavery on James Burrough’s Virginia Plantation in 1856. When he was 9 he was gathered with the other slaves and was told he could go freely due to the Emancipation Proclamation. After he was freed, his mother and him moved to West Virginia where he worked in the coalmines. Then, he decided that he needed to go to college.
Booker T. Washington enrolled at the all-black Hampton University in the early 1870’s. He studied various subjects and earned his diploma. After graduation he taught at various schools and the founder of Hampton University was so impressed with his ability to educate that he made him the organizer and principal of a black trade school. He named it Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute.
While at Tuskegee, Booker T. Washington incorporated the idea of integrating blacks into society by teaching them skills needed to work. While at Tuskegee, blacks could learn such skills as carpentry, welding, fabrication, and agricultural qualities. The school was very popular among black, but also whites. Whites did not enroll, but they did not object to blacks learning trades. Money poured into the institution and Washington was considered the spokesperson for the black people. So much so that he was asked important questions by presidents William Taft and Teddy Roosevelt concerning blacks. He was even invited to dinner at the White House by Teddy Roosevelt.
Perhaps the most important event in Washington’s life came on September 18, 1895 in Atlanta. Political leaders had invited Washington to speak at a convention that celebrated the South’s resurgence in business. Never before had a black spoken at such a prestigious exposition. In his address, Washington spoke of a compromise between whites and blacks. Washington urged blacks to accept their inferior social position and raise their status by learning vocational skills. Many whites were pleased with this speech and most blacks, awed by his prestige, accepted his statements. However, Washington faced strong opposition from militant blacks who strongly opposed his statements. The NAACP and American writer W. E. B. Du Bois were the strongest opposers.
Washington continued his idea of incorporating blacks into society by finding several organizations, including the National Negro Business League, which was to further black advancement. Washington also remained principal of Tuskegee Institute till his death on November 14, 1915.
Booker T. Washington is one of the most important people to the African-American race as well as the American race. His ideas were very initiative at the time and were done for the well being of his race. Many blacks can thank him for making America a better place of living for blacks.