Last modified on 20 September 2014, at 11:52

Booker T. Washington

Progress, progress is the law of nature; under God it shall be our eternal guiding star

Booker Taliaferro Washington (April 5, 1856November 14, 1915) was an American political leader, educator and author of African ancestry, most famous for his tenure as President of Tuskegee University (1880–1915).

QuotesEdit

Men may make laws to hinder and fetter the ballot, but men cannot make laws that will bind or retard the growth of manhood.
In any country, regardless of what its laws say, wherever people act upon the idea that the disadvantage of one man is the good of another, there slavery exists.
Wherever, in any country the whole people feel that the happiness of all is dependent upon the happiness of the weakest, there freedom exists.
  • Character, not circumstances, makes the man.
  • In any country, regardless of what its laws say, wherever people act upon the idea that the disadvantage of one man is the good of another, there slavery exists. Wherever, in any country the whole people feel that the happiness of all is dependent upon the happiness of the weakest, there freedom exists.
    • An Address on Abraham Lincoln before the Republican Club of New York City (12 February 1909)
  • There are two ways of exerting one's strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.
    • As quoted in The Great Quotations (1971) edited by George Seldes, p. 366
  • There is no escape — man drags man down, or man lifts man up.
    • As quoted in The Great Quotations (1971) edited by George Seldes, p. 366
  • You can't hold a man down without staying down with him.
    • As quoted in The Great Quotations (1971) edited by George Seldes, p. 641

Up From Slavery (1901)Edit

I learned the lesson that great men cultivate love, and that only little men cherish a spirit of hatred.
I would permit no man, no matter what his colour might be, to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.
No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem. It is at the bottom of life we must begin, and not at the top.
My whole life has largely been one of surprises.
Full text online at Project Gutenberg
  • From some things that I have said one may get the idea that some of the slaves did not want freedom. This is not true. I have never seen one who did not want to be free, or one who would return to slavery.
    • Chapter I: A Slave Among Slaves
  • I pity from the bottom of my heart any nation or body of people that is so unfortunate as to get entangled in the net of slavery. I have long since ceased to cherish any [spirit]] of bitterness against the Southern white people on account of the enslavement of my race. No one section of our country was wholly responsible for its introduction, and, besides, it was recognized and protected for years by the General Government. Having once got its tentacles fastened on to the economic and social life of the Republic, it was no easy matter for the country to relieve itself of the institution. Then, when we rid ourselves of prejudice, or racial feeling, and look facts in the face, we must acknowledge that, notwithstanding the cruelty and moral wrong of slavery, the ten million Negroes inhabiting this country, who themselves or whose ancestors went through the school of American slavery, are in a stronger and more hopeful condition, materially, intellectually, morally, and religiously, than is true of an equal number of black people in any other portion of the globe. This is so to such an extend that Negroes in this country, who themselves or whose forefathers went through the school of slavery, are constantly returning to Africa as missionaries to enlighten those who remained in the fatherland. This I say, not to justify slavery — on the other hand, I condemn it as an institution, as we all know that in America it was established for selfish and financial reasons, and not from a missionary motive — but to call attention to a fact, and to show how Providence so often uses men and institutions to accomplish a purpose.
    • Chapter I: A Slave Among Slaves
  • I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed. Looked at from this standpoint, I almost reached the conclusion that often the Negro boy's birth and connection with an unpopular race is an advantage, so far as real life is concerned. With few exceptions, the Negro youth must work harder and must perform his tasks even better than a white youth in order to secure recognition. But out of the hard and unusual struggle through which he is compelled to pass, he gets a strength, a confidence, that one misses whose pathway is comparatively smooth by reason of birth and race.
    • Chapter II: Boyhood Days
  • I learned the lesson that great men cultivate love, and that only little men cherish a spirit of hatred. I learned that assistance given to the weak makes the one who gives it strong; and that oppression of the unfortunate makes one weak.
    • Chapter XI: Making Their Beds Before They Could Lie On Them
  • I would permit no man, no matter what his colour might be, to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.
    • Chapter XI: Making Their Beds Before They Could Lie On Them
    • This statement was quoted in Charm and Courtesy in Conversation (1904) by Frances Bennett Callaway, p. 153 as "I permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him." It has also often been paraphrased in various other ways:
I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.
I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him.
I let no man drag me down so low as to make me hate him.
  • Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him.
    • Chapter XI: Making Their Beds Before They Could Lie On Them
  • Nothing ever comes to me, that is worth having, except as the result of hard work.
    • Chapter XII: Raising Money
  • Cast down your bucket where you are.
    • Chapter XIV: The Atlanta Exposition Address
    • This address was a speech at the Cotton States and International Exposition, Atlanta (1895-09-18)
  • In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.
    • Chapter XIV: The Atlanta Exposition Address
  • No man who continues to add something to the material, intellectual, and moral well-being of the place in which he lives is long left without proper reward.
    • Chapter XVI: Europe
  • My whole life has largely been one of surprises. I believe that any man's life will be filled with constant, unexpected encouragements of this kind if he makes up his mind to do his level best each day of his life — that is, tries to make each day reach as nearly as possible the high-water mark of pure, unselfish, useful living.
    • Chapter XVII: Last Words

My Larger Education, Being Chapters from My Experience (1911)Edit

  • There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.
    • Ch. V: The Intellectuals and the Boston Mob (pg. 118)
  • I am afraid that there is a certain class of race-problem solvers who don't want the patient to get well, because as long as the disease holds out they have not only an easy means of making a living, but also an easy medium through which to make themselves prominent before the public.
    My experience is that people who call themselves "The Intellectuals" understand theories, but they do not understand things. I have long been convinced that, if these men could have gone into the South and taken up and become interested in some practical work which would have brought them in touch with people and things, the whole world would have looked very different to them. Bad as conditions might have seemed at first, when they saw that actual progress was being made, they would have taken a more hopeful view of the situation.
    • Ch. V: The Intellectuals and the Boston Mob


MisattributedEdit

  • Associate yourself with people of good quality, for it is better to be alone than in bad company.
    • "Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for 'tis better to be alone than in bad Company." This was a French maxim, late 16th century, as quoted by George Washington in his "Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation," Rule # 56 (ca. 1744) [1]
  • Opportunity is like a bald-headed man with only a patch of hair right in front. You have to grab that hair, grasp the opportunity while it's confronting you, else you'll be grasping a slick bald head.
    • This seems to be a paraphrase sumarizing a speech at the Carrie Tuggle Institute, Birmingham, as described in Thinking Black: Some of the Nation's Best Black Columnists Speak Their Mind (1997) by DeWayne Wickham

Quotes about WashingtonEdit

Washington performed on the world stage as a moral charismatic leader representing African Americans. ~ Michael Scott Bieze and Marybeth Gasman
Alphabetized by author
  • Booker T. Washington advised, networked, cut deals, made threats, pressured, punished enemies, rewarded friends, greased palms, manipulated the media, signed autographs, read minds with the skill of a master psychologist, strategized, raised money, always knew where the camera was pointing, traveled with an entourage, waved the flag with patriotic speeches, and claimed to have no interest in partisan politics. In other words, he was an artful politician. He was not a lawyer, scholar, college-bred man, or a military hero. But he knew how to use the power of symbolism through the lens of a storyteller.
    • Michael Scott Bieze and Marybeth Gasman, in Booker T. Washington Rediscovered (2012), p. 209
  • He was a thinker rooted in the Bible and Shakespeare, a lover of epigrams, a teller of folksy tales, a prodigious writer, and theatrical in his method of inspiring crowds.
    • Michael Scott Bieze and Marybeth Gasman, in Booker T. Washington Rediscovered (2012), p. 209
  • Washington performed on the world stage as a moral charismatic leader representing African Americans. Some strongly believe he failed in that role; others believe that he succeeded against the odds. Some believe he was a trickster and self-made man; others firmly believe he was tricked and was a "made-man" by white power brokers. Whatever one's position, it is undeniable that Washington was an influential educational, business, cultural and political leader. He certainly had all the basics of leadership: a vision, a means of implementing the vision, and the enthusiasm of followers.
    • Michael Scott Bieze and Marybeth Gasman, in Booker T. Washington Rediscovered (2012), p. 210
  • Washington, unlike many other Black leaders of his time was a frequent traveler in the Deep South who knew the conditions firsthand instead of the abstract. Washington was a witness to the violence and racism of Jim Crow in the Black Belt and lived beside desperate poverty and illiteracy. Because of the paradoxical nature of being both a pragmatic realist and a utopian separatist, Washington sometimes expressed conflicting and ambiguous positions on issues.
    • Michael Scott Bieze and Marybeth Gasman, in Booker T. Washington Rediscovered (2012), p. 211

External linksEdit

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