Booker Taliaferro Washington



Founder of Tuskegee Institute. Throughout his adult life he instructed African-Americans in citizenship and worked to improve their economic position through education and vocational training.

Booker T. Washington was born in a rude slave cabin in Virginia and weaned in the salt mills and coal mines. He had an insatiable hunger for knowledge that led him to memorize a worn copy of a spelling book and, later, to establish Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute.

From its opening in 1881, with 30 students in an old church and a dilapidated building, until the present day, the world-renown Tuskegee Institute has been guided by the principles of its distinguished founder. Washington learned the value of industrial education at Hampton Institute, which he used as a model in the building of Tuskegee. He taught his students the dignity and the beauty of labor and that learning a trade was more necessary sometimes than the study of Greek and Latin verbs. "It is at the bottom of life we must begin," he told his students, "and not at the top." At the time of its founder's death in 1915, the Institute had more than 1500 students, almost 200 teachers, more than 100 buildings and thousands of loyal alumni.

In his trips through the North and South to raise money for Tuskegee, Booker T. Washington attained considerable fame as a public speaker and as a spokesman for African-Americans; a role not sought, but richly deserved.

Elected 1955

Alabama Hall of Fame, 1968

Return to Famous Alabamians
Return to General Historical Information
Return to Alabama History On-Line
Return to ADAH Homepage
Created: 1/18/96