1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Washington, Booker Taliaferro

For works with similar titles, see Booker Taliaferro Washington.

WASHINGTON, BOOKER TALIAFERRO (c. 1859–  ), American negro teacher and reformer, was born on a plantation near Hale's Ford, Franklin county, Virginia. Soon after the Civil War he went to Malden, West Virginia, where he worked in a salt furnace and then in a coal mine. He obtained an elementary education at night school, and worked as a house servant in a family where his ambition for knowledge was encouraged. In 1872 “by walking, begging rides both in wagons and in the cars” he travelled 500 m. to the Hampton (Virginia) Normal and Agricultural Institute, where he remained three years, working as janitor for his board and education, and graduated in 1875. For two years he taught at Malden, West Virginia, and studied for eight months (1878–1879) at the Wayland Seminary in Washington, D.C. In 1879 he became instructor at the Hampton Institute, where he trained about seventy-five American Indians with whom General S. C. Armstrong was carrying on an educational experiment, and he developed the night school, which became one of the most important features of the institution. In 1881 he was appointed organizer and principal of a negro normal school at Tuskegee, Alabama (q.v.), for which the state legislature had made an annual appropriation of $2000. Opened in July 1881 in a little shanty and church, the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute became, under Washington's presidency, the foremost exponent of industrial education for the negro. To promote its interests and to establish better understanding between whites and blacks, Washington delivered many addresses throughout the United States, notably a speech in 1895 at the opening of the Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition. In 1900 at Boston, Massachusetts, he organized the National Negro Business League. Harvard conferred upon him the honorary degree of A.M. in 1896, and Dartmouth that of LL.D. in 1901.

Among his publications are a remarkable autobiography, Up from Slavery (1901), The Future of the American Negro (1899), Sowing and Reaping (1900), Character Building (1902), Working with the Hands (1904), Tuskegee and its People (1905), Putting the most into Life (1906), Life of Frederick Douglass (1907), The Negro in Business (1907) and The Story of the Negro (1909).