founder and first president of the tuskegee normal and industrial institute (now tuskegee university) term: 1881-1915
Born April 5, 1856, in Franklin County, Virginia, Booker Taliaferro was the son of an unknown white man and Jane, a slave cook for James Burroughs, a small planter. Jane named her son Booker Taliaferro, but later dropped the middle name. Booker took the last name “Washington” when he first enrolled in the school. Some time after Booker’s birth, his mother married Washington Ferguson, a slave. a daughter, amanda, was born of this marriage. James, Booker’s younger half-brother, was adopted. Booker’s older brother, John, was also the son of a white man. Booker spent his first nine years as a slave on the Burroughs farm. in 1865, her mother took her children to malden, west virginia, to join her husband, who had gone there earlier and found work in the salt mines. At age nine, Booker went to work baling salt. between the ages of ten and twelve, he worked in a coal mine. he attended school while continuing to work in the mines. in 1871, he went to work as a servant for the general’s wife. lewis ruffner, owner of the mines.
securing an education…
in 1872, at age sixteen, booker t. Washington entered Hampton Agricultural and Normal Institute in Virginia. The dominant personality at the school, which he had opened in 1868 under the auspices of the American Missionary Association, was the principal, Samuel Chapman Armstrong, the son of American missionaries in Hawaii. Armstrong, who had commanded black troops in the Civil War, believed that the advancement of freedmen and their descendants depended on an education of a special kind, one that would be practical and utilitarian while instilling character and morality. washington traveled most of the distance from malden to hampton on foot, arriving with no money. his entrance exam to hampton was to clean a room. the teacher inspected his work with an immaculate white handkerchief. booker was admitted. He was given a job as a janitor to pay for his room and board, and Armstrong arranged for a white benefactor to pay his tuition. In Hampton, Washington, he studied academics and agriculture, which included working in the fields and pigsties. he also learned lessons in grooming and good manners. His special interest was public speaking and debate. he was jubilant when he was chosen to speak at his graduation ceremony. The most important part of his experience at Hampton was his association with Armstrong, whom he described in his autobiography as “a great man, the noblest and rarest human being I have ever had the privilege of knowing.” “. From Armstrong, Washington derived much of its educational philosophy from him. After graduating from Hampton with honors in 1875, Washington returned to Malden to teach. for eight months he was a student at wayland seminary, an institution with an entirely academic curriculum. this experience reinforced his belief in an educational system that emphasized practical skills and self-help. in 1879, washington returned to hampton to teach in a program for american indians.
in 1880, the alabama state legislature passed a bill that included an annual appropriation of $2,000 to establish a school for blacks in macon county. This action was sparked by two men: Lewis Adams, a former slave, and George W. campbell, a former slave owner. On February 12, 1881, Governor Rufus Willis Cobb signed the bill into law, establishing the Tuskegee Normal School for the training of black teachers. Armstrong was invited to recommend a white teacher for principal of the school. Instead, he suggested Washington, who was accepted. when washington arrived in tuskegee, he found that no land or buildings had been purchased for the projected school, nor was there money for these purposes since the appropriation was only for salaries. Undaunted, Washington began to sell the idea of the school, recruiting students and seeking support from local whites. The school opened on July 4, 1881, in a shack lent by a black church, Butler A.M.E. Zion. With money borrowed from the Hampton Institute’s treasurer, Washington bought a 100-acre abandoned plantation outside of Tuskegee. students built a kiln, made bricks for buildings, and sold bricks to raise money. in a few years, they built a classroom building, a dining hall, a girls’ dormitory, and a chapel. By 1888, the 540-acre Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute had more than 400 enrollees and offered training in specialty trades such as carpentry, cabinetmaking, printing, shoemaking, and tinsmithing. the boys also studied agriculture and dairying, while the girls learned household skills such as cooking and sewing. With their own labor, the students supplied a large part of the needs of the school. In academic departments, Washington insisted that efforts be made to relate subject matter to students’ actual experiences. He placed a strong emphasis on personal hygiene, manners, and character building. the students followed a rigid study and work schedule, getting up at five in the morning and retiring at half past nine at night. although Tuskegee was non-denominational, all students were required to attend chapel every day and a series of church services on Sundays. washington himself used to talk to the students on sunday nights. Olivia Davidson, a graduate of Hampton and Framingham State Normal School in Massachusetts, became a teacher and assistant principal at Tuskegee in 1881. In 1885, Washington’s older brother John, also a Hampton graduate, came to Tuskegee to direct the training program vocational . Other notable additions to the staff were acclaimed scientist Dr. George Washington Carver, who became director of the agriculture program in 1896; Emmet J. Scott, who became Washington’s private secretary in 1897; and Monroe Nathan Work, who became head of the Records and Research Department in 1908.
establishing a legacy…
On Tuskegee’s 25th anniversary, Washington had transformed an idea into a 2,000-acre, eighty-three-building campus that, combined with personal assets such as equipment, livestock, and business stock, was valued at $831,895. Tuskegee’s endowment fund was $1,275,644, and training in thirty-seven industries was available to the more than 1,500 students enrolled that year. through progress in the tuskegee, washington demonstrated that an oppressed people could advance. His concept of practical education was a contribution to the general field of education. His writings, which included 40 books, were widely read and appreciated. His works include an autobiography titled “Up From Slavery” (1901), “Character Building” (1902), “My Highest Education” (1911), and “The Farthest Man” ” (1912). ). Washington came onto the national scene on the opening day of the Atlanta Exposition in 1895 when he spoke of “the new Negro,” one with “the knowledge of how to live…how to farm the land, manage its resources.” , and make the most of your opportunities.” Eyebrows rose again on Oct. 16, 1901, when Washington became the first black person to dine at the White House. Advice to many U.S. Presidents, he was there for invitation of president theodore roosevelt. washington was married three times. in 1882, he married his malden girlfriend, fannie norton smith. he died two years later, leaving behind a young daughter, portia (who married william sidney pittman, an architect, in 1907).In 1885, Washington married Hampton graduate Olivia Davidson, Tuskegee Vice Principal, who died in 1889. Two sons were born to this marriage: Booker Taliaferro, Jr. and Ernest Davidson.
in 1893, washington married fisk college graduate margaret james murray, who had come to tuskegee as principal in 1889 and directed programs for female students and started women’s meetings. Margaret Murray Washington died in 1925. Margaret and her husband’s three children and four grandchildren were survived by Washington, who died on November 14, 1915, at the age of fifty-nine, of arteriosclerosis and exhaustion. she died after an illness in st. Luke’s Hospital, New York City, where he had been admitted on November 5. Knowing that the end was near, he left with his wife and his doctor, dr. John A. Kennedy, Sr., on November 12, so that he could die in Tuskegee. book t. Washington’s funeral on November 17, 1915, was held in the Tuskegee Institute Chapel and nearly 8,000 people attended. he was buried on campus in a brick tomb, made by students, on a hill overlooking the entire campus.