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Booker T Washington

Date of Birth:



United States


Born in slavery, Booker T. Washington put himself in school and became a teacher after the Civil War. In 1881, he founded the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama (now called Tuskegee University), which grew very large and focused on training Native Americans in agriculture. A mentor and political writer, Washington fought the intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois over the best ways to lift races. At an early age, Booker went to work carrying sacks of grain in a planting hole. Hitting a hundred pound sacks has been a difficult task for a young boy, and he was beaten occasionally for not doing his job well. Booker's first disclosure in education came from outside the schoolhouse near the library; she looks inside, and she sees kids her age sitting in the windows and reading books. He wanted to do what those kids did, but he was a slave, and it was illegal to teach slaves to read and write. In 1866, Booker T. Washington got the job of owning the home of Viola Ruffner, the wife of coal miner Lewis Ruffner. Mrs. Ruffner was known for being very strong in his servants, especially the boys. But he saw something in Washington - his maturity, ingenuity and integrity - and he quickly drew closer to her. During the two years she worked for him, she understood her desire for education and allowed her to attend school for one hour a day during the winter months. She died November 14, 1915.

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