Booker Taliaferro Washington

1856-1915. Negro educator. Son of a slave mother and a white father, he was educated at Hampton Institute, where he came to believe that only vocational training produced income and virtue for blacks. Called in 1881 to organize Tuskegee Institute, an Alabama school for Negroes, he grew more convinced that manual training, unlike classical education, would prevent Negroes from learning egalitarian ideas and provide them with jobs-neither of which was offensive to whites. At the Atlanta Exposition of 1895 he further pleased whites by declaring that blacks were interested in hard work, not social advancement. Washington hoped that sobriety and perseverance would eventually prompt white recognition of human equality, but that also encouraged whites to consider blacks only as manual laborers, and projected artisan and yeoman status for blacks in an increasingly mechanized society. Whatever the merits of his ideas, he was the leading spokesman of blacks in his day.