Essay about The Life of Booker T. Washington

Essay about The Life of Booker T. Washington

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     During his lifetime, Booker T. Washington was a national leader for the betterment of African Americans in the post-Reconstruction South. He advocated for economic and industrial improvement of Blacks while accommodating Whites on voting rights and social equality. Washington traces his life from his being born a slave to an educator. His writings and speeches, though initially was very influential for his race, later in his life began to be challenged by the new generation of African Americans and died as he did in 1915 with him. In this autobiography of his life, Washington’s generalizations and accommodations of the treatment and disregard for the African American by people of the White race was nonchalant, as though he felt that for some reason it was okay or necessary for African Americans to be treated as second class.

As a child Washington recalls what life was like as a slave. Like many slaves he was unaware of neither his exact date a birth nor the year. Unlike many tales that have been told about the lives of slaves, Washington by no means spoke poorly of his life as a child other than being raised in slave quarters. He spoke of the beginning of his life happening during the “most miserable, desolate, and discouraging surroundings”, however he made certain to mention that his owners were not “especially cruel” nor responsible for this fact. He describes the lack of knowledge that he had for his family due to the manner in which Africans were brought over. He recalls that his mother’s family had suffered greatly on the journey to America from Africa. His description of the lack of knowledge that blacks have of their family is due to the lack there was of family records and the constant separation of husbands and wives and children because with the Africans being considered property there was no reason to keep them together, comparing his race to a cow or a horse that would not have been kept together with its offspring or its mating partner so why should the blacks since they were thought of in the same capacity be treated differently. Washington recounted this lack of family knowledge as both a blessing and a curse. That unlike the white child, who was expected to do certain things because of his family history the black child was not held to that type of challenge. Washington compared the lives of the Negro children and the lives of the w...


... middle of paper ...


...eech was interpreted by the different races and classes of people left everyone to their own ways of thinking.

Washington married three times. A private and complex man, he had the trauma of losing two wives. He married one of his Malden school pupils, Fanny Norton Smith in 1882. Their daughter Portia was born in 1883. Fanny died in 1884. He then married Olivia Davidson in 1885. A Hampton graduate, Olivia was the assistant principal of Tuskegee. She had great influence on Washington and the development of his Northern philanthropic support. They had two sons, Booker T. Washington Jr. and Ernest Davidson Washington. Olivia died in 1889. Washington then married Margaret James Murray in 1892. A teacher, Margaret became the Lady Principal of Tuskegee after Olivia's death. Margaret and Booker did not have children.

As for Tuskegee Institute, its success was beyond Washington's wildest dreams. At the time of Washington's death, 34 years after its founding, the school property included 2,345 acres and 107 buildings, with nearly 200 faculty members and more than 1,500 students. Tuskegee Institute had become the world's leader in agricultural and industrial education for the Negro.

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