Booker T. Washington

African-American educator, author, orator, and advisor (1856-1915)

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).

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

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
  • In all things social as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.

1900sEdit

  • The unprecedented leap the Negro made when freed from the oppressing withes of bondage is more than deserving of a high place in history. It can never be chronicled. The world needs to know of what mettle these people are built.
    • "Introduction" (1902), Progress of a Race: Or, The Remarkable Advancement of the Afro-American
  • After making careful inquiry I can not find a half a dozen cases of a man or woman who has completed a full course of education in any of our reputable institutions like Hampton, Tuskegee, Fiske, or Atlanta, who are imprisoned. The records of the South show that 90 percent of the colored people imprisoned are without knowledge of trades and 61 percent are illiterate. But it has been said that the negro proves economically valueless in proportion as he is educated. Let us see. All will agree that the negro in Virginia, for example, began life forty years ago in complete poverty, scarcely owning clothing or a day's food. The reports of the State auditor show the negro today owns at least one twenty-sixth of the real estate in that Commonwealth exclusive of his holdings in towns and cities, and that in the counties east of the Blue Ridge Mountains he owns one-sixteenth. In Middlesex County he owns one-sixth: in Hanover, one-fourth. In Georgia the official records show that, largely through the influence of educated men and women from Atlanta schools and others, the negroes added last year $1,526,000 to their taxable property, making the total amount upon which they pay taxes in that State alone $16,700,000. Few people realize under the most difficult and trying circumstances, during the last forty years, it has been the educated negro who counseled patience, self-control, and thus averted a war of races. Every negro going out of our institutions properly educated becomes a link in the chain that shall forever bind the two races together in all essentials of life.

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
  • In one thing, at least, I feel sure that the English are ahead of Americans, and that is, they have learned how to get more out of life. The home life of the English seems to me to be about as perfect as anything can be. Everything moves like clockwork. I was impressed, too, with the deference that the servants show to their "masters" and "mistresses" - terms which I suppose would not be tolerated in America. The English servant expects, as a rule, to be nothing but a servant, and so he perfects himself in the art to a degree that no class of servants in America has yet reached. In our country the servant expects to become, in a few years, a "master" himself. Which system is preferable? I will not venture an answer.
    • 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

1910sEdit

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, p. 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 Booker T. WashingtonEdit

 
What man is a worse enemy to a race than a leader who looks with equanimity on the disfranchisement of his race in a country where other races have universal suffrage by constitutions? ~ William Monroe Trotter
 
So thoroughly did he learn the speech and thought of triumphal commercialism, and the ideals of material prosperity, that the picture of a lone black boy poring over a French grammar amid the weeds and dirt of a neglected home soon seemed to him the acme of absurdities. One wonders what Socrates and St. Francis of Assisi would say to this. ~ W. E. B. Du Bois
 
Professor Washington ... will have to live a long time to undo the harm he has done to our race. His remarks on social equality ... will be quoted by newspapers, magazines, periodicals, legislatures, congressmen, lawyers, judges and all grades of whites to prove that the Negro race is satisfied with being degraded. ~ Henry McNeal Turner
 
Washington performed on the world stage as a moral charismatic leader representing African Americans. ~ Michael Scott Bieze and Marybeth Gasman
Alphabetized by author
  • Now Washington is a great and good man, a Christian statesman, and take him all in all the greatest man, save General Lee, born in the South in a hundred years; but he is not a typical negro.
    • John Spencer Bassett, 'Stirring Up the Fires of Race Antipathy', South Atlantic Quarterly, II (1903), p. 299
  • 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
  • Booker Washington is the combined Moses and Joshua of his people. Not only has he led them to the promised land, but still lives to teach them by example and precept how properly to enjoy it.
    • Andrew Carnegie, The Negro in America: An Address Delivered Before the Philosophical Institution of Edinburgh, 16th October, 1907, p. 39
  • I have for some years had the pleasure of Mr. Booker Washington's acquaintance, and I share with all those who know the facts the appreciation of the services he has rendered and is rendering to the solution of one of the gravest and most perplexing problems of our time. He is a man who, in every sense, deserves well of his contemporaries, and I believe that, when hereafter the story is written of Christian people's endeavour in our day to atone for and to amend the racial wrongdoings of the past, Mr. Booker Washington's name will stand in the very forefront of those for whom the world will give thanks.
    • Archbishop of Canterbury Randall Davidson, quoted in The Times (October 7, 1910), p. 4
  • So thoroughly did he learn the speech and thought of triumphal commercialism, and the ideals of material prosperity, that the picture of a lone black boy poring over a French grammar amid the weeds and dirt of a neglected home soon seemed to him the acme of absurdities. One wonders what Socrates and St. Francis of Assisi would say to this.
  • We are a people born of many peoples. Our culture, our skills, our very aspirations have been shaped by immigrants—and their sons and daughters—from all the earth. Sam Gompers from England, Andrew Carnegie from Scotland, Albert Einstein from Germany—and Booker T. Washington and Al Smith—Marconi and Caruso—men of all nations and races and estates—they have made us what we are.
  • There is nothing more touching in his book than the passages which record her devotion and her constant endeavor to help him find the way so dark to her. There is nothing more beautiful and uplifting in literature than the tender reverence, the devout honor with which he repays her affection. His birth was a part of slavery, and she was, in his eyes, as blameless for its conditions as if it had all the sanctions. The patience, the fearless frankness, with which he accepts and owns the facts, are not less than noble; and it is not to their white fathers, but to their black mothers, that such men as Fredrick Douglass and Booker Washington justly ascribe what is best in their natures.
    • William Dean Howells, 'An Exemplary Citizen', The North American Review, Vol. 173, No. 537 (Aug., 1901), pp. 281–282
  • What strikes you, first and last, in Mr. Washington is his constant common sense. He has lived heroic poetry, and he can, therefore, afford to talk simple prose. Simple prose it is, but of sterling worth, and such as it is a pleasure to listen to as long as he chooses to talk. It is interfused with the sweet, brave humor which qualifies his writing, and which enables him, like Dunbar, to place himself outside his race, when he wishes to see it as others see it, and to report its exterior effect from his interior knowledge.
    • William Dean Howells, 'An Exemplary Citizen', The North American Review, Vol. 173, No. 537 (Aug., 1901), p. 283
  • His modesty, his patience, his forbearance, are sublime.
    • Elbert Hubbard, Little Journeys to the Homes of Great Teachers (1916), p. 215
  • Historical and contemporary judgments affirm that Washington was in reality “a great accommodator.” But to create Tuskegee in Alabama in that era he could hardly have been otherwise. He did create Tuskegee—a splendid achievement—but, in so doing, was in turn almost forced to create of himself an image of national leadership. But in time, he grew to like this image and eventually to take advantage of it, so his enemies claimed, for the exercise of power itself. As a bridge between the white and colored peoples of the United States, he sought and gained more often than not the favors of the white power structure from which came the endowments supporting Tusekegee.
    • Langston Hughes, 'Introduction', Up from Slavery (1965), pp. v–x, quoted in The Collected Works of Langston Hughes: Essays on Art, Race, Politics, and World Affairs (2001), p. 513
  • The vast majority of Negros are members of or associated with either the Baptist Church or the several branches of the Methodist Church. ... So strong has been their allegiance to these two denominations that Dr. Booker T. Washington used to say, with his characteristic humor, that if ever you discovered a Negro who was not either a Baptist or a Methodist, some white man had been tampering with his religion.
  • It is not hyperbole to say that Booker T. Washington was a great American. For twenty years before his death he had been the most useful, as well as the most distinguished, member of his race in the world, and one of the most useful, as well as one of the most distinguished, of American citizens of any race.
    • Theodore Roosevelt, 'Preface', Emmett J. Scott and Lyman Beecher Stowe, Booker T. Washington: Builder of a Civilization (1916), p. ix
  • The race that can produce a Booker T. Washington in a century ought to feel it can do miracles in time.
    • William Howard Taft, speech in Carnegie Hall (February 23, 1909), quoted in The Times (February 25, 1909), p. 5
  • What man is a worse enemy to a race than a leader who looks with equanimity on the disfranchisement of his race in a country where other races have universal suffrage by constitutions?
    • William Monroe Trotter, referring to Booker T. Washington's acquiescence to state constitutions that disenfranchised black citizens, Editorial, Boston Guardian, December 20, 1902
  • Silence is tantamount to being virtually an accomplice in the treasonable act of this Benedict Arnold of the Negro race.
    • William Monroe Trotter, referring to Booker T. Washington's acquiescence to state constitutions that disenfranchised black citizens, Editorial, Boston Guardian, December 20, 1902
  • Social equality carries with it civil equality, political equality, financial equality, judicial equality, business equality, and wherever social equality is denied by legislative enactments and judicial decrees, the sequel must be discrimination, proscription, injustice and degradation. ... With all due respect to Prof. Washington personally, for we do respect him personally, he will have to live a long time to undo the harm he has done to our race. His remarks on social equality, which is nothing more than civil equality, will be quoted by newspapers, magazines, periodicals, legislatures, congressmen, lawyers, judges and all grades of whites to prove that the Negro race is satisfied with being degraded, not that the Professor meant it, but such will be the construction given it by our civil and political enemies.
    • Henry McNeal Turner, "Response to the Atlanta Exposition Address," in Voice of the Missions, October 1895
  • I am just as much opposed to Booker T. Washington as a voter as I am to the coconut-headed, chocolate-colored typical little coon who blacks my shoes every morning.

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