Advertisement
Advertisement

Booker T. Washington (1856 - 1915)

A photo of Booker T. Washington
Booker T. Washington
1856 - 1915
Born
April 5, 1856
Burroughs Farm in Hale's Ford, Franklin County, Virginia, 24121, United States
Death
November 14, 1915
Tuskegee, Macon County, Alabama, United States
Other Names
Booker Taliaferro Washington
Summary
Booker T. Washington was born on April 5, 1856 at Burroughs Farm in Hale's Ford, Franklin County, Virginia United States, and died at age 59 years old on November 14, 1915 in Tuskegee, Macon County, Alabama. Booker Washington was buried at Tuskegee University, in Tuskegee.
Updated: September 28, 2022
Biography ID: 192654713

Booker Washington's Biography

Family, friend, or fan this Collaborative Biography is for you to show & tell Booker's life so that he is always remembered.
About Booker

Introduction

Born into slavery to an enslaved woman on the James Burroughs plantation in southwest Virginia and (rumored to be) a white man from a neighboring plantation, Booker Washington was never sure of the exact date of his birth. The date we have is from the headstone on his grave.

Of his childhood in enslavement, he said:
"Cannot recall a single instance during my childhood or early boyhood when our entire family sat down to the table together, and God's blessing was asked, and the family ate a meal in a civilized manner. On the plantation in Virginia, and even later, meals were gotten to the children very much as dumb animals get theirs. It was a piece of bread here and a scrap of meat there. It was a cup of milk at one time and some potatoes at another."

When he was 9, due to the Emancipation Proclamation, his family was freed. They moved to West Virginia where his mother's husband, Washington Ferguson, lived. This is when Booker taught himself to read and began to educate himself. He took his step-father's name as his surname when he began formal education.

Under his direction, Washington along with his students literally built their own school: making bricks, constructing classrooms, barns and outbuildings; and growing their own crops and raising livestock; both for learning and to provide for most of the basic necessities. Both men and women had to learn trades as well as academics. The Tuskegee faculty used all the activities to teach the students basic skills to take back to their mostly rural black communities throughout the South. The main goal was not to produce farmers and tradesmen, but teachers of farming and trades who could teach in the new lower schools and colleges for blacks across the South. The school expanded over the decades, adding programs and departments, to become the present-day Tuskegee University

To read about his long and illustrious life, see New York Times Obituary - November 15, 1915.
Looking for another Booker Washington?
Booker T. Washington
Most commonly known as
Booker T. Washington
Full legal name
Booker Taliaferro Washington
Other names or aliases

Name & aliases

Where did Booker Washington last live?
Last place lived

Last residence

April 5, 1856
Birthday
Burroughs Farm in Hale's Ford, Franklin County, Virginia 24121, United States
Birth location

Birth details

Advertisement

Ethnicity & Family History

Booker T. Washington was believed to have been of African-American and Caucasian. (He was born of an enslaved African woman and - believed to have been -a Caucasian man who was the owner of a nearby plantation.)

Nationality & Locations

Born in Virginia, United States, Booker lived in Virginia, West Virginia, and Alabama. While ill, near death, he traveled from New York so that he could die in Alabama, where he is buried.

Education

Booker was self taught and then, after working to earn money in a coal mine, was educated at Hampton Institute and Wayland Seminary.

Religion

dd/mm/yyyy
Baptism date
Unknown
Place of worship

Baptism date & location

Booker was Baptist.

Professions

Booker T. Washington was an educator, author, and an African American civil rights leader.

Personal Life

Booker was a Republican. He was married to Fannie N. Smith until her death in 1884 and then to Olivia Davidson until her death in 1889. He then married Margaret Murray, to whom he was married until he died. Booker had three children. He had one child, Portia M. Washington, from his first marriage. He had two sons, Booker T. Jr, and Ernest Davidson Washington. His third wife helped raise the three children.

Military Service

Did Booker serve in the military or did a war or conflict interfere with his life?
November 14, 1915
Death date
Complications from hypertension (high blood pressure)
Cause of death
Tuskegee, Macon County, Alabama United States
Death location

Death details

dd/mm/yyyy
Funeral date
Tuskegee University, in Tuskegee, Macon County, Alabama 36088, United States
Burial location

Gravesite & burial

Obituary

The below was generated. Please share Booker's obituary if available, or write one in your own words to preserve his memory.
Booker Washington passed away at age 59 years old on November 14, 1915 in Tuskegee, Macon County, Alabama, and was buried at Tuskegee University, in Tuskegee. Booker T. Washington was born on April 5, 1856 at Burroughs Farm in Hale's Ford, Franklin County, Virginia United States.

Average Age & Life Expectancy

Booker T. Washington lived 8 years shorter than the average Washington family member when he died at the age of 59.
The average age of a Washington family member is 67.
Advertisement
Advertisement

Memories: Stories & Photos

Who is Booker Washington to you? Share memories and family stories, photos, or ask questions.
Through sharing we discover more together.
Loading...one moment please
Booker T. Washington, seated
This is a photo of Booker T. Washington on January 9, 2012. The photo was taken by Frances Benjamin Johnston.
Date & Place:
Comments
Cancel
A man of learning and distinction, Booker T. Washington (1856 - 1915) was born an enslaved person to an enslaved woman and (thought to be) a white man from a neighboring plantation. His family was freed after the Emancipation Proclamation when he was 9 and they moved from Virginia to West Virginia.

An amazing human being, Booker taught himself to read and educated himself before going on to higher learning. He didn't just reap the rewards of his own education though, he also taught others, founding the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

We all learned about Booker Washington when we were in school but his determination and grit, rising from an enslaved person to dining with the President of The United States in the White House, are unparalleled and can't adequately be covered in a mention in school. His beginnings are enshrouded in mystery (his date of birth is from his tombstone) but his life, in words and photos, will always live on and be documented.
Reply
Facebook Fan
via Facebook
09/28/2022
He and Dr. King and so many others of the early civil rights leadership, emphasized jobs and work 1st and foremost. It's to our detriment that we have forgotten their wisdom.
Reply
Booker T. Washington & guests
A photo of Booker T. Washington , standing, center, with (front row) George T. McAneny, Robert C. Ogden, an unidentified man, and George W. Eliot, President of Harvard College, (2nd row) J.G. Phelps Stokes, Dr. Lyman Abbott, and Hollis B. Frissell, President of Hampton Institute.
People in photo include: George T. McAneny, Robert C. Ogden, George W. Eliot, J.g. Phelps Stokes, Lyman Abbott, and Hollis B. Frissell
Date & Place:
Comments
Cancel
[Booker Taliaferro Washington, seated, facing left, with...
Date & Place: Not specified or unknown.
Comments
Cancel
Margaret and Booker Taliaferro Washington
This is a photo of Booker Taliaferro Washington and his 3rd wife, Margaret Murray Washington, added by Ancient Faces on January 9, 2012.

This photo was taken just 5 years after Margaret and Booker had been invited to join Teddy and Edith Roosevelt for dinner at the White House. The move wasn't popular in the South.

Margaret was Booker's 3rd wife. His first 2 wives, died - Fannie (Fanny) Smith Washington (1858–1884) married 1882, and Olivia America Davidson Washington (June 11, 1854 – May 9, 1889) married 1886. He married Margaret in 1893 and she survived him.
Date & Place:
Comments
Cancel
On this day in 1901, Booker T Washington and his wife Margaret were invited to dine at the White House with President Teddy Roosevelt and his wife Edith. The invitation was condemned in the South and yet reading about the man will show you just how amazing he was.
Reply
Nancy Thompson
via Facebook
11/16/2020
I remember learning about him in school and greatly admired him. At the time I wasn't aware that black people were often treated so poorly. It's very sad.
Reply
New York Times Obituary - November 15, 1915
TUSKEGEE, Ala., Nov. 14.--Booker T. Washington, foremost teacher and leader of the negro race, died early today at his home here, near the Tuskegee Institute, which he founded and of which he was President. Hardening of the arteries, following a nervous breakdown, caused his death four hours after Dr. Washington arrived from New York.

Although he had been in failing health for several months, the negro leader's condition became serious only last week while he was in the East. He then realized the end was near, but was determined to make the last long trip South. He said often: "I was born in the South, have lived all my life in the South, and expect to die and be buried in the South."

Accompanied by his wife, his secretary, and a physician, Dr. Washington left New York for Tuskegee at 4 o'clock on Friday afternoon. He reached home last midnight, and died at 4:40 o'clock this morning. His last public appearance was at the national conference of Congregational churches in New York, where he delivered a lecture on Oct. 25. The funeral will be held at Tuskegee Institute on Wednesday morning at 10 o'clock.

Dr. Washington's Career

No one knows the day, nor even with certainty the year, of the birth of Booker T. Washington; but the day of his death was announced by telegraph and cable to many parts of the world.

He began life as "just another little nig***" on a plantation of a family named Burrows in Hale's Ford, Va. The month and year of his birth were probably April, 1858, although Dr. Washington himself was not sure of this. In the biographical paragraph under his name in "Who's Who in America," it is said that he was born "about 1859." The only certain fact is that he was born into slavery when negro mothers made no record of nor long remembered the date of a child's birth.

Soon after the close of the civil war the little negro boy went with his stepmother to Malden, West Va., where he worked in salt furnaces for nine moths in the year and attended school for three months. After several years of such life the boy obtained work in the kitchen of Mrs. Viola Ruffner, a New England woman who had married a Southerner. Mrs. Ruffner soon recognized the boy's eagerness and ability to advance himself, so she taught him the elementary subjects. Booker Washington felt grateful to her to the end of his life, because she really gave him his start.

He heard of the Hampton Institute, for negroes, in 1871, when he was about thirteen years old, and he decided at once to attend it. So, with the little money he had been able to save from his wages of $6 a week, he set out for Richmond, Va., hoping to earn enough there to enable him to go on to Hampton, which is near Norfolk. This was in 1871. Dr. Washington founded the Tuskeegee Institute just ten years later. He was admitted to the institute and was graduated at the head of his class in 1875, after working his way through the school.

After graduation Dr. Washington returned to Malden and taught school until he had earned enough to enable him to go to the Wayland Seminary in Washington, D. C., where he studied until 1879, when he was called to Hampton as a teacher in the institute. After he had taught for two years, in 1881 the State of Alabama voted to found an industrial institute for negroes similar to that at Hampton, and, after searching for a negro qualified to head the proposed institution, Dr. Washington was selected. This was his entrance into the "black belt" of the South, a chance which he had long desired, and when he assumed charge of the institute at Tuskegee, Ala., his real life's work began.

The Start of Tuskegee

The State had appropriated $2,000 a year, and it was the task of the negro to organize the school. How well he did this is shown by a comparison of statistics. The institute opened on July 4, 1881, with one teacher and thirty pupils. At that time it had neither land nor buildings, nothing but the $2,000 a year granted by the Alabama Legislature.

When the institute celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary it owned 2,000 acres of land and eighty-three large and small buildings, which, with its equipment of live stock, stock in trade, and other personal property, were valued at $831,895. This did not include 22,000 acres of public land remaining unsold from the 25,000 acres granted by Congress, valued at $135,000, nor the endowment fund, which was $1,275,644. During the year there were more than 1,500 students enrolled in the school, more than 1,000 young men, and more than 500 young women. The students were trained in thirty-seven industries.

It was on the opening day of the Atlanta Exposition in 1895 that Dr. Washington became a national character. On that day he delivered an address that was heard by thousands and read by other thousands in far-away places with wonder that a man so wise and clear- seeing should arise from among his people to lead them upward. For it was because Dr. Washington stood out as a negro striving in a sensible and sincere way to help negroes that he commanded attention on that day in Atlanta.

His subject was "The New Negro," and white men saw in what he said a sane hope for the negro race and a real solution of the vexing "negro problem."

The character and difficulties of Dr. Washington's work are told in a magazine article written by him. When elected to organize the Tuskegee Institute, he traveled through the "black belt" in order to become acquainted with the people whom he was to teach.

"In the plantation districts," he wrote later, "I found large families, including visitors when any appeared, living and sleeping in a single room. I found them living on fat pork and corn bread, and yet not infrequently I discovered in these cabins sewing machines which no one knew how to use, which had cost as much as $60, or showy clocks which had cost as much as $10 or $12, but which never told the time. I remember a cabin where there was but one fork on the table for the use of five members of the family and myself, while in the opposite corner was an organ for which the family was paying $60 in monthly installments. The truth that forced itself upon me was that these people needed not only book learning, but knowledge of how to live; they needed to know how to cultivate the soil, to husband their resources, and make the most of their opportunities."

Men of Affairs Come to His Aid

Word of his aims, advertised to the world in the Atlanta speech, spread all over the country, and soon men and women of means began to want to assist Dr. Washington. Chief among these was Andrew Carnegie, who began by giving a $20,000 library to the institute, which he followed with a regular contribution of $10,000 a year. The climax of Mr. Carnegie's generosity toward the institute was reached in 1903, when he gave $600,000 to the endowment fund.

Among those who indorsed and supported Dr. Washington by act and speech were Presidents McKinley, Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson; the officials of many States, and the heads of many institutions of learning. Though he never seemed to seek them, honors of all kinds were bestowed upon the negro. The degree of M. A. was conferred upon him by Harvard in 1896, and LL. D. by Dartmouth in 1901. In 1910, when Dr. Washington was in Europe, he was received by the King of Denmark, addressed the National Liberal Club in London, and visited Mr. Carnegie in Skibo Castle.

Among those who gave the most effectual assistance to Dr. Washington in his work was Robert Curtis Ogden, who died in Maine on Aug. 6, 1913. Mr. Ogden became interested in negro educational work through his association with General Samuel Chapman Armstrong, the founder of the Hampton Institute, and as the President of the Southern Educational Board he did much to overcome southern prejudice against the education of negroes and spread the knowledge of Hampton and Tuskegee among both the white and black people.

An incident of Dr. Washington's life that stirred up a controversy throughout the country was the occasion of his dining at the White House with President Roosevelt on Oct. 16, 1901. Dr. Washington went to the White House at the invitation of the President, and, when the news was spread abroad, thousands, both North and South, who were moved by race prejudice or by a belief that social equality between blacks and whites had been encouraged, became angry. Most of the criticism fell upon Colonel Roosevelt, but the incident served also to injure Dr. Washington's work in some parts of the South.

In addition to his work at Tuskegee and upon the lecture platform, Dr. Washington wrote a number of books and pamphlets upon the negro question. Chief among his works were: "Sowing and Reaping," 1900; "Up from Slavery," 1901; "Future of the America Negro," 1899; "Character Building," 1902; "The Story of My Life and Work," 1903; "Working with Hands," 1904; "Tuskegee and Its People," 1905; "Putting the Most Into Life," 1906; "Life of Frederick Douglass," 1907; "The Negro in Business," 1907; "The Story of the Negro," 1909; "My Larger Education," 1911, and "The Man Farthest Down," 1912.

Dr. Washington was married three times, and is survived by his third wife, two sons and a daughter.
Comments
Cancel
Booker Taliaferro Washington, 1859?-1915
Date & Place: Not specified or unknown.
Comments
Cancel
[Booker Taliaferro Washington, 1859?-1915, full length,...
Date & Place: Not specified or unknown.
Comments
Cancel
Statue of Booker T. Washington "Lifting the Veil of...
Date & Place: Not specified or unknown.
Comments
Cancel
Grave of Booker T. Washington located at Tuskegee...
Date & Place: Not specified or unknown.
Comments
Cancel
The Oaks, home built for Booker T. Washington and his...
Date & Place: Not specified or unknown.
Comments
Cancel
The Oaks, home built for Booker T. Washington and his...
Date & Place: Not specified or unknown.
Comments
Cancel
The Oaks, home built for Booker T. Washington and his...
Date & Place: Not specified or unknown.
Comments
Cancel
The Oaks, home built for Booker T. Washington and his...
Date & Place: Not specified or unknown.
Comments
Cancel
The Oaks, home built for Booker T. Washington and his...
Date & Place: Not specified or unknown.
Comments
Cancel
The Oaks, home built for Booker T. Washington and his...
Date & Place: Not specified or unknown.
Comments
Cancel
The Oaks, home built for Booker T. Washington
This is a photo of The Oaks, home built for Booker T. Washington and his family in Tuskegee, Alabama added by Ancient Faces on January 9, 2012.
Date & Place: Not specified or unknown.
Comments
Cancel
Booker T. Washington National Monument, Hardy, Virginia
Date & Place: Not specified or unknown.
Comments
Cancel
[Booker T. Washington, three-quarter length portrait,...
Date & Place: Not specified or unknown.
Comments
Cancel
[Booker T. Washington, three-quarter length portrait,...
Date & Place: Not specified or unknown.
Comments
Cancel
[Booker T. Washington, three-quarter length portrait,...
Date & Place: Not specified or unknown.
Comments
Cancel
[Booker T. Washington, half-length portrait, seated at...
Date & Place: Not specified or unknown.
Comments
Cancel
[Booker T. Washington
This is a photo of Booker T. Washington standing on a stage before large crowd in Lakeland added by Ancient Faces on January 11, 2012.
Date & Place: Not specified or unknown.
Comments
Cancel
President McKinley & Booker T. Washington
William McKinley, standing on platform, between Gov. Jos. E. Johnston and Booker T. Washington in Tuskegee, Ala
Date & Place: in Tuskegee, Alabama United States
Comments
Cancel
ADVERTISEMENT BY ANCESTRY.COM
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Family Tree & Friends

Booker's immediate relatives including parents, siblings, partnerships and children in the Washington family tree.

Booker's Family Tree

Parent
Parent
Booker T. Washington Booker T. Washington
Partner
Child
Partner
Child
Sibling

Friends

Friends can be as close as family. Add Booker's family friends, and his friends from childhood through adulthood.

Add bio
Advertisement
Advertisement
ADVERTISEMENT BY ANCESTRY.COM
Advertisement

1856 - 1915 World Events

Refresh this page to see various historical events that occurred during Booker's lifetime.

In 1856, in the year that Booker T. Washington was born, on February 18th, The American Party, also called the "Know-Nothings" because they were an anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant movement, assembled in Philadelphia to nominate their first Presidential candidate, former President Millard Fillmore. The party sought to keep the "purity" of elections by blocking "impure" foreigners.

In 1865, by the time he was only 9 years old, on March 4th, President Abraham Lincoln was sworn in for a second term. A little over a month later, he would be assassinated by a Confederate sympathizer - 4 days after the surrender of Lee at Appomattox, which had effectively ended the Civil War.

In 1873, at the age of 17 years old, Booker was alive when on February 12th, The Coinage Act of 1873 was signed by President Ulysses S. Grant. It went into effect on April 1st and ended the use of gold and silver in the U.S. for currency - placing the country on the gold standard. The Act wasn't popular with everyone.

In 1880, Booker was 24 years old when in October, the "Blizzard of 1880" began in North America - considered the most severe winter ever known in the US. Many areas were snowbound throughout the whole winter, which was made famous in Laura Ingalls Wilder's book The Long Winter.

In 1915, in the year of Booker T. Washington's passing, the Superior Court in Fulton County Georgia accepted the charter for the establishment of the new Ku Klux Klan, succeeding the Klan that flourished in the South in the late 1800's. This iteration of the Klan adopted white clothing and used many of the code words from the first Klan, adding cross burnings and mass marches in an attempt to intimidate others.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Other Biographies

Other Booker Washington Biographies

Other Washington Family Biographies

Back to Top