18 Interesting Facts About Booker T. Washington that Will Amaze You

Welcome, little fact-plorers, to take a look at the contributions of one of the most influential and controversial Black leaders of the 19th and 20th centuries in America, Booker T. Washington😲!

From being an innovative educator to being a great orator and adviser to several presidents, this exceptional leader has some amazing facts to offer!

This article will offer some fascinating facts about Booker T. Washington that will you surprise you! 

Let’s start this wonderful 😊 revelation!

Amazing Facts About Booker T. Washington

Birth of Washington: This famous leader was born into slavery

Birth Of Washington

Washington was born into slavery in Virginia in 1856 as the son of an African-American slave called Jane👩!

After emancipation, Jane, moved the family to West Virginia to join her husband, Washington Ferguson. 

During the Civil War, West Virginia had seceded from Virginia and even joined the Union as a free state. 

Though Washington’s mom, Jane was an enslaved cook for the owner of the plantation, Washington’s dad was white. 

However, Washington didn’t know his father!!

After the Civil War ended, Washington and his family were freed from slavery, and at that time, he was only 9.

Childhood of Washington: He worked in coal mines and salt furnaces

After the war ended, Washington moved to Malden, West Virginia, with his family. 

At that time, he was put to work! 

Little Washington labored in the nearby Kanawha salt mines, packing and shoveling salt into barrels. 

Washington wished to attend school and even received permission to do so on the condition that he must work in the salt mines from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m. and even later in the day.

From ages 10 to 12, he worked in coal mines and even continued with his hard-physical toil with schoolwork!

At the age of 15: Washington worked for the wife of the coal mines owner

Washington Worked For The Wife Of The Coal Mines Owner

Washington was hired as a servant for the wife of the coal mines owner, Viola Ruffner, when he was only 15🧒. 

After one year, he left for the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Virginia to continue his education. 

After that, he even attended college at Wayland Seminary, which is now famous as Virginia Union University.

Washington’s middle name: It is Italian

Did you hear this interesting fact about Booker T. Washington? No?? Let me explain.

The T, which we see in Booker T. Washington, actually stands for Taliaferro. 

This term means “iron cutter” in Italian. Although reports vary, but his mother apparently named Washington Booker Taliaferro when he was born. 

However, later the second name was dropped! 

Washington selected his surname while he was in school. 

However, it was not clear whether he chose it because it was his stepfather’s first name or it was the first U.S. president’s name!

Also, Washington used Taliaferro as his middle name. 

Washington was the first African American to be seen on a postage stamp of America

Washington Was Seen On A Postage Stamp Of America

President F. D. Roosevelt got numerous petitions throughout the 1930s, requesting him to feature Booker on a stamp📮. 

In 1938, Roosevelt acknowledged that Booker deserved consideration to be featured as part of the series Famous Americans!

Washington became the first African American to be depicted on a stamp of the U.S. 

The stamp was a part of the Famous Americans series of the Postal Service! 

The owner of the first sheet of Washington’s stamps that were sold was Tuskegee Institute.

Later, Washington was honored in 1956 by the Postal Service for the 100-year anniversary of his birth!

The Tuskegee Institute: It was founded by Washington

In May 1881, Armstrong suggested Washington to be the leader of a new school in Tuskegee, Alabama. 

That school would follow the model of Hampton! The state legislature of Alabama even approved a $ 2000 appropriation per year for the Tuskegee Normal School. 

However, when Booker came, he saw that the fund only covered the salaries and there was no land or buildings!

A local Black church loaned Booker a shanty. 

Also, he borrowed money from the treasurer of Hampton Institute to purchase a plantation of 100 acres. 

On July 4, 1881, Booker opened the school 🏛️after recruiting some students!

Booker faced a unique entrance exam

Booker Faced A Unique Entrance Exam

I am really surprised to explore this fact! 

In 1872, Booker enrolled in the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute at the age of sixteen. 

It was a newly established institution for former slaves in southeastern Virginia! Miss Mackie, the school’s head teacher👩‍🏫, asked Washington to sweep the floor as an entrance exam!!

Washington took this challenge and swept🧹 it three times and even mopped and washed the walls! 

Miss Mackie inspected and was impressed with Booker’s hard work. So, she let him into the school!

However, Booker worked as a janitor to pay the cost of his board and room!

Samuel Chapman Armstrong: Booker was a follower of this person

Have you heard this unique secret about Booker T. Washington??

While staying at Hampton, Booker met the principal and founder of Hampton, Samuel Chapman Armstrong. 

As a son of missionaries in Hawaii, in the Civil War, Armstrong had commanded the Black troops on the Union side! 

Later, he turned his focus to providing education📚 to Black students. 

In 1868, Hampton was opened in Virginia in order to train Black educators, and even to teach them vital job skills!

Booker adopted Armstrong’s principles wholeheartedly and even held Armstrong in high esteem. 

Married life of Booker T. Washington: He married three times

Married Life Of Booker T. Washington

Washington was windowed twice!! Quite surprising, isn’t it?

He married Fanny Norton Smith 👰‍♀️, a Malden acquaintance. 

Fanny also attended Hampton in 1882. They had a daughter prior to Smith died in 1884. 

Later, Washington married Olivia Davidson in 1885. 

Davidson was the assistant principal at Tuskegee, and they had two sons. 

However, in 1889, Davidson passed away from tuberculosis. 

After that, Booker married Margaret James Murray, in 1892. 

She served as the “lady principal” of Tuskegee Institute. These two remained married until Booker’s death in 1915.

Booker T. Washington: He really turned the tide

From a mere slave without any right to be an influential person to the man who got the opportunity to dine 🥣with the most powerful person in the country appears to be completely impossible, right??

However, in October 1901, Washington got an invitation from President Theodore Roosevelt to dine with him and his family at the White House!!

Although presidents had private meetings with black leaders, this was the first highly publicized occasion, as in this an African American got invitation from the president! 

The following day, a statement was released by the White House stating the dining incident.

The Tuskegee Institute: Booker turned it into a world-class learning center

Booker Washington In Tuskegee Institute

Washington was quite skilled at networking and fundraising!

 He even enjoyed public speaking🗣️! While trying to build Tuskegee, he interacted with many wealthy politicians, benefactors, and even citizens!

In 1906, Tuskegee had grown into a campus with 83-building on around 2000 acres and had an endowment fund of $1.28 million💰. 

Also, on its 25th anniversary celebration, guests included Andrew Carnegie, William H. Taft (the secretary of war), and also Charles W. Eliot, president of Harvard University. 

Sounds impressive, right??

Julius Rosenwald: Booker developed a relationship with this person

In 1912, Booker developed a relationship with Julius Rosenwald, a Jewish philanthropist and the owner of Sears Rosebuck. 

Julius served on the board of trustees for many years and even made substantial donations to Tuskegee.

Also, Julius and Booker collaborated on a pilot program for the architects of Tuskegee. 

The program involved designing of six model schools for African-American students in the rural regions of the South.

Later, Rosenwald established the Rosenwald Foundation to help schools in 1917. 

Thus, almost 5000 new small rural schools were constructed for black students in the South. 

Author Booker: He wrote several books

Booker Washington Wrote Several Books

Did you know that Booker even wrote several books?

Along with his significant contributions to education, Booker even wrote 🖋️14 books!!

Up from Slavery, his autobiography was first published in 1901. 

It is a book that is still quite popular. 

During a difficult transition period, Booker did a lot to improve the working relationship between races.

He helped blacks to achieve proper education, financial freedom, and even understanding of the legal system of the United States. 

Thus, the blacks got the skills to support the civil rights movement that resulted in the creation of some vital civil rights laws.

Washington appeared to be support segregation publicly

Washington believed that economic freedom and security was the most important requirement for Black people. 

In 1895, Washington spoke to racially mixed crowd at the Cotton States and International Exposition. 

His speech was even criticized by Black activist W.E.B. Du Bois as “The Atlanta Compromise.” 

Some supported his approach, while others opposed it strongly. 

Some even thought that Washington is trying to reduce anti-Black violence with a message that might appease the whites.

Washington proved that a good joke can make an enemy laugh

Washington's Jokes

Have to heard this wonderful secret about Washington??

Washington became quite famous as a powerful public speaker to not only black but also white audiences!

He often used humor as an element to put his audiences at ease, especially those who were against his views!

According to Washington’s contemporary James Hardy Dillard, Washington could” not only deliver a good joke well, but tell what was just the shadow of a joke so well that his audience would be shaken with laughter 😄.”

Several one-lines of Washington utilized racial dialect and stereotypes that might be seen inappropriate today!

Booker even got criticized by other Black leaders

A supporter of equality?? Then you will surely love this interesting fact about Booker T. Washington 🤔?

Booker received a lot of criticism from other Black leaders for suggesting Black Americans to work hard to become financially free. 

However, he still secretly involved in financially contributing and supporting to many legal obstacles against voter suppression and segregation. 

Also, Booker secretly invested in key Black newspapers and even publications around America to help bring attention to these problems. 

He even did this to combat inequality and injustice.

Death of Washington: He is buried on the Tuskegee campus

Death Of Washington

Booker T Washington passed away⚰️ on November 14, 1915, of ‘elevated hypertension.” 

He had been in New York and, upon knowing that he had very little time left, was able to board a train 🚆 to Tuskegee. 

He did this to die at home near the Tuskegee Institute. Booker arrived home at almost midnight and passed away at 4:40 a.m.

On November 17, around 8000 people attended Washington’s funeral at the Tuskegee Institute Chapel. 

This famous person is buried on a hill on the campus of the Institute.

The president of Tuskegee arranged an air tour to honor Washington

In 1934, Washington’s successor as president of Tuskegee University, Robert Russa Moton arranged an air tour✈️. 

This tour was arranged for two African-American aviators to honor Washington. 

Also, later the plane was renamed the Booker T. Washington.

Moreover, many elementary schools, high schools, and middle schools across America have been named after Washington.

Summing up

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