Booker T. Washington

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Booker T. Washington

Following the smoke of Confederate and Union gunfire emerged the self-reliant and awe-inspiring Booker Taliaferro Washington. As a distinguished black educator, a commanding broker, and an ethical as well as economical constructionist, he stepped up to the podium of civil reform with authority. Life was not easy for young Booker T; from the moment of his delivery on April 5, 1856, he was clamped into bondage. Toiling in the backbreaking salt furnace from the age of ten with his father, whilst partially attending school in Malden, West Virginia was a demanding schedule, which was only alleviated by his acceptance to the Hampton Institute, a school set up by whites to edify newly freed slaves after the Civil War. It was there, he worked as a janitor to support himself and pay his tuition and boarding fee. Completing his regular studies at Hampton in 1875, he was later hired in the fall of 1879 to teach Native Americans youths and direct night classes for black men and women. Evidently, well acquainted with the hardships of the common (black) man, Booker T. Washington was an exemplar of black solidarity and idyllic for the institutionalization of economic reform for the betterment of the Negro community. His revolutionary outlook on the enhancement of African Americans up the slippery social ladder of white supremacy proved to be very effective in post-Civil War America; by the injection of ultramodern reformist thought into the Negro psyche and the restructuring of outdated modes of 'black behavior' by means of an economic guise, he propelled blacks irretrievably forward. Booker T. Washington's beliefs still echo through our society today.

The aforementioned Hampton Institute provided Washington with a sturdy foundation for his later achievements. Although the curriculum was centered on industrial arts and moral cultivation rather than intellectual pursuits, he unearthed the goodness in character formation and modeled his behavior accordingly. In 1881, these principles chiseled the infrastructure of his Normal and Industrial Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Erected from a dilapidated shanty and church, came forth the foremost educational institution for blacks, which simultaneously sponsored and built momentum for the "Tuskegee Movement:" an array of policies, views, and tactics that illuminated Booker T. Washington as "the race leader" in dealing with the "Negro Problem" (as his supporters in both the North and South saw it). From his southern small-town nucleus he bejeweled the nation with a network of schools and newspapers, offering a means by which the Negro populace could liberate themselves of Jim Crow's noose and Uncle Tom's iron-grip.
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