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Monday, August 26, 2013

What Did Booker T Washington Believe In?

Booker T. Washington was a polarizing figure-- some people were very much in favor of his ideas and admired him, while others strongly opposed his ideas and criticized him. First, a little historical context. 
He was born into slavery in 1856; after emancipation, he was able, through hard work, to overcome extreme poverty, get an education, and become one of the best-known black public speakers and political leaders. During his long and distinguished career, he founded a vocational school for black students, and became friends with numerous white politicians, including presidents and governors. He was very popular in white society, and was frequently asked to be a spokesman on issues that affected the Negro population (black people were called "Negroes" back then).

What made him controversial was his belief that black people should focus mainly on learning a trade, rather than going to college. He also believed that fighting against segregation was not a winning strategy. Rather, he taught patience and understanding, and suggested that if black people were successful as craftsmen/craftswomen, farmers, or tradesmen, they would be able to have a good life and create a separate but equal society.

This put him at odds with some black leaders who wanted to challenge segregation and who believed black people should focus on getting into good colleges and having professional careers, rather than just accepting what seemed like subordinate jobs in society. Washington's defenders said that he absolutely believed that blacks and whites deserved equality, but he felt it was sensible and pragmatic to take things one step at a time.

But both sides agreed that Booker T. Washington was a man of many achievements. He founded the school that is today known as Tuskegee University, his speeches on current issues drew big crowds, and his autobiography, "Up from Slavery" became a best seller. Further, his insistence on honesty, hard work, and self-determination were widely praised, as was his belief that black people needed to learn practical and marketable skills to be able to gain economic security. Even in a culture that was deeply racist and where segregation was accepted, Booker T. Washington was seen as someone who set a very positive example, and overcame difficult circumstances.
Source: Wiki Answers