WASHINGTON, Booker T(aliaferro)
(1856-1915), American educator, who urged blacks to attempt to uplift themselves through educational attainments and economic advancement.
Washington was born April 5, 1856, on a plantation in Franklin Co., Va., the son of a slave. Following the American Civil War, his family moved to Malden, W.Va., where he worked in a salt furnace and in coal mines, attending school whenever he could. From 1872 to 1875 he attended a newly founded school for blacks, Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (now Hampton University). After graduation he taught for two years in Malden and then studied at Wayland Seminary, in Washington, D.C. In 1879 he became an instructor at Hampton Institute, where he helped to organize a night school and was in charge of the industrial training of 75 American Indians. The school was so successful that in 1881 the founder of Hampton Institute, the American educator Samuel Chapman Armstrong, appointed Washington organizer and principal of a black normal school in Tuskegee, Ala.
(now the Tuskegee University). Washington made the institution into a major center for industrial and agricultural training and in the process became a well-known public speaker.
Washington was asked to speak at the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, Ga., as an example of the progress blacks had made since slavery. There, on Sept. 18, he made his famous speech, now known as the "Atlantic compromise address." In this address he urged blacks to accept their inferior social position for the present and to strive to raise themselves through vocational training and economic self-reliance. Many whites, pleased by his views, and many blacks, awed by his prestige, accepted Washington as the chief spokesperson of the American black. Many other blacks, such as the American writer and sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois, objected to such...