Booker T. Washington

Born: 1856
Place of Birth: Virginia
Died: 1915

Booker T Washington

Booker T. Washington was a civil rights leader and an educator that helped to change the lives of Black Americans. Washington had a desire to learn and to share that learning with other Black Americans. He became the founder of the Tuskegee Institute, a college for Black Americans. Although Washington is known for his passion for equality for Black Americans, few know that he didn’t support the growing women’s movement for equality.

  • Washington was born of a slave mother and a white plantation owner father. During that time, any children born to a slave were also slaves. Booker and his mother, stepfather, and brother and sister lived in a 1-room shack and slept on the floor.
  • Booker was required to work when he was five years old, and by the time he was 9, the Civil War had ended, and they set slaves free. The problem during that time is that freed African Americans couldn’t find jobs, so his family moved to West Virginia to work in the salt mines.
  • Booker attended a local school for Black children while he worked. When he heard about the Hampton Institute, a college for Black students, he walked the five hundred mile distance to attend. He worked at various jobs during his journey.  Once he graduated, he worked as a teacher at the Institute and was one of the best teachers.
  • Washington was asked to help to open another school in Tuskegee, Alabama, for Black students. It was to be called Tuskegee Institute, and in 1881 they didn’t have supplies or a building but had many students hungry to learn. Booker taught classes in a church, and for a time, was the only teacher.
  • Most of Washington’s life was devoted to getting the Tuskegee Institute, so it was a major university. He believes in instructing the students, so they all knew a trade that could earn them a living and made sure they knew construction, agriculture, farming, and sewing. He recruited George Washington Carver, known for his study in plant science, as one of the teachers at the Institute.
  • Booker traveled all over the south, trying to get people to support the school. He soon became known as a speaker and was brought in as one of the leaders in the civil rights movement. His goal was to get the message out all across the country regarding equality for African Americans. That education is the first step in ensuring the American dream for everyone.
  • Years later, President Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker to the White House to have dinner with him and his family. Booker held the honor of being the first Black American to be invited to the White House as a guest. They had lively discussions about the southern states and their treatment of Black Americans.
  • Madam C.J. Walker became the first African American millionaire with the hair products that she created for Black women. When she met Booker T. Washington, she had yet to become famous or wealthy but was trying to build her business. Washington put her down, indicating that what she was doing was making it more difficult for Black men to gain equality.
  • Booker passed away in 1915 from a heart attack.


What Black American university did Booker T. Washington support?
Tuskegee Institute

How many miles did Booker T. Washington walk to attend college?
500 miles

How old was Booker T. Washington when he was required to go to work?
5 years old

Why was Booker T. Washington born a slave?
Because his mother was a slave

Which American president invited Booker T. Washington to dinner at the White House?
Theodore Roosevelt

What movement did Booker T. Washington join to encourage equality for Black American?
Civil rights movement