Booker T. Washington: 7 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

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Booker T. Washington was one of the most influential black reformers of his time. Born into slavery, he rose to become civil rights leader of the black community in the United States and fought for their space in several industries. 

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He founded the National Negro Business League to advocate for African-American businesses and was part of the Tuskegee Institute, a higher education institution for black people. 

Despite his positive impact, Washington was criticized for tolerating white supremacy. Continue reading this article to learn more facts about Booker T. Washington. 

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Booker T. Washington’s Slavery Roots 

Booker T. Washington: 7 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know
Booker T. Washington’s portrait. Source: Wikimedia licensed by Public domain

On April 5, 1856, Booker T. Washington was born to an enslaved African-American mother. He didn’t know his father, who was believed to be white. The political figure only used his name Booker and date of birth. At the age of nine, his family gained freedom through the Emancipation Proclamation and relocated to West Virginia. 

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His Middle Name is Italian

Have you ever asked yourself what the T. in Booker T. Washington stands for? Well, it’s Taliaferro, which he was given at birth, so his full name is Booker Taliaferro Washington. Taliaferro means iron-cutter. He adopted his last name, Washington, after joining a school in West Virginia. The name is from his stepfather Washington Ferguson, whom his mother married and joined after they got freedom. 

First African-American to Appear on a Postage Stamp

Review of Booker T. Washington. Video Credit: HISTORY

On April 7, 1940, Booker T. Washington became the first African American to be on a postage stamp, as part of the Famous Americans Issue. The team of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed to his nomination in honor of his services to the country in various sectors, including education. However, some people weren’t happy that a black man received such honor and protested against it.

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The Tuskegee Institute

In 1881, Booker T. Washington founded the Tuskegee Industrial Institute, currently, Tuskegee University, in Alabama which allowed people to acquire skills such as masonry, carpentry, shoemaking, printing and tinsmithing, among others. 

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To build the school, he took a loan from the Hampton Institute treasurer, bought a 100-acre piece of land and built what can now be referred to as the first phase of Tuskegee Institute as it expanded over time. Through this, Booker T. Washington demonstrated that the black community could advance themselves if they mobilized resources.

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Married Thrice

Booker T. Washington married thrice. His first marriage was to Fannie N. Smith, with whom he had one child. After she died in 1984, Washington remarried Olivia A. Davidson, who bore him two sons and unfortunately, she died in 1889 after which, he got married for a third time to Margaret James Murray, with whom he didn’t have any children. Like his first two wives, she died in 1925 and he never remarried again. 

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Published Books

Like many great heroes, Booker T. Washington authored several books including an autobiography about his life and others on the life of African Americans. His first was Up From Slavery, written in 1901. 

He shares his journey from being born as an enslaved child, going to school, and starting Tuskegee  Institute. He followed this with several books like Atlanta Compromise, The Future of the American Negro and The Negro Problem, among others. 

Dinner at the White House

President Theodore on his dinner at the White House. Video Credit: Starving Naked

Booker T. Washington was invited by former American President Theodore Roosevelt for dinner at the White House. This made him the first black person to receive such an invite. The President’s wife and his children attended the occasion. 

However, this sparked outrage amongst people who didn’t want black people in certain places. As a result, the White House reframed the story and claimed they had lunch, but years later, his wife confirmed they had dinner.

We hope that these Booker T. Washington facts have helped you to learn more about his life and work. He was a good example of how you can overcome obstacles if you put in the effort.  

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