Booker T. Washington saw education as the true emancipator for himself and others. He rose from slavery and a childhood of manual labor to become a leading educator of African Americans at the end of the 19th century.
As the first principal of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, he built an educational program that emphasized agricultural and industrial training.
His program reflected an understanding of the racism, violence, intimidation, and lack of economic opportunities that most African Americans faced in the South during this time. He believed that when African Americans proved themselves economically, civil rights for blacks would naturally follow.
From 1895 to 1915, he was the most powerful and influential African American in the United States.
Booker T Washington was born right here in Franklin County. He was born in 1856 on the Burroughs tobacco farm which, despite its small size, he always referred to as a "plantation." His mother was a cook, his father a white man from a nearby farm. "The early years of my life, which were spent in the little cabin," he wrote, "were not very different from those of other slaves."
He went to school in Franklin County - not as a student, but to carry books for one of James Burroughs's daughters. It was illegal to educate slaves. "I had the feeling that to get into a schoolhouse and study would be about the same as getting into paradise," he wrote.
In April 1865 the Emancipation Proclamation was read to joyful slaves in front of the Burroughs home. Booker's family soon left to join his stepfather in Malden, West Virginia. The young boy took a job in a salt mine that began at 4 a.m. so he could attend school later in the day. Within a few years, Booker was taken in as a houseboy by a wealthy towns-woman who further encouraged his longing to learn.
At age 16, he walked much of the 500 miles back to Virginia to enroll in a new school for black students. He knew that even poor students could get an education at Hampton Institute, paying their way by working. The head teacher was suspicious of his country ways and ragged clothes. She admitted him only after he had cleaned a room to her satisfaction.
Booker T had come full circle, back to earning his living by menial tasks. Yet his entrance to Hampton led him away from a life of forced labor for good. He became an instructor there. Later, as principal and guiding force behind Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, which he founded in 1881, he became recognized as the nation's foremost black educator.
Washington the public figure often invoked his own past to illustrate his belief in the dignity of work. "There was no period of my life that was devoted to play," Washington once wrote. "From the time that I can remember anything, almost everyday of my life has been occupied in some kind of labor." This concept of self-reliance born of hard work was the cornerstone of Washington's social philosophy.
Excerpt taken from: http://www.nps.gov/archive/bowa/btwbio.html
Here is more information - we were just featured in the Sunday edition of the Washington Post!
The Claiborne House Bed and Breakfast is about 8 miles to Booker T Washington National Monument, 12130 Booker T. Washington Highway, Hardy, Virginia 24101
It is on Route 122 in Franklin County, and a perfect heritage/cultural/historical /educational stop on the way to visit Washington DC. I truly wonder what thoughts would be on the mind of this remarkable man if he were alive today to see and African American take the highest office, not just in US history, but IN THE WORLD!
Some of my all time favorite Booker T quotes:
Associate yourself with people of good quality, for it is better to be alone than in bad company.
Character, not circumstances, makes the man.
Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him.
I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed.
Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.
There is no power on earth that can neutralize the influence of a high, simple and useful life.
No race can prosper 'till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem.
The world cares very little about what a man or woman knows; it is what a man or woman is able to do that counts.
Life is too short for bad coffee... Shellie
The Claiborne House Bed and Breakfast in Rocky Mount, Virginia http://www.claibornehouse.net/