Tag Archives: @areyouaseeker

#PromotePositivity

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I had the pleasure of sitting down with Juan Goodwin of #PromotePositivity (www.werbcg.com). I heard a lot about what he was doing in the community of Cleveland Ohio, so I want to put his information out to the world. I am always happy when I see other young men my age that are doing very positive things.

Me: Juan, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Juan: I am from Cleveland Ohio. I am 28 years old. I went to Walsh University, I majored in Special Education. I graduated from Walsh University in 2007. Now I am the Youth Coordinator at the Salvation Army here in Cleveland on Hough Ave. I am also a managing partner at Bruce Clinkscale Goodwin Inc. We are a consulting firm that specializes in Professional Development, Youth Development, Public Speaking, Community Relations etc…… I also got a book coming out in the spring called “Crack Baby”.

Me: That is great! What is your book about?

Juan: It is a book about my life. Everything that I have gone through in my time on earth, some people see the glory but don’t know the story.

Me: You are so right about that. Tell me did you start #PromotePositivity?

Juan: Yes I started it about two years ago. I was tired of all the negative images that were portrayed in the media. So what we do is if a kid gets straight A’s, Perfect Attendance, Good Behavior, playing sports, it really does not matter as long as it is something positive where are here to promote that positivity. Anytime kids are not robbing or killing each other, we really want to put that energy out there because everyone is not carrying themselves like thugs.

Me: Is your program gender specific?

Juan: No, it does not matter your gender or color we want you to be a part of our program. I really would not call it a program. We go throughout the entire school district having functions for the children. We go to community centers, homeless shelters, so we are trying to help all people not just youth but we do have a special emphasis on youth.

Me: What is youth specific?

Juan: For Salvation Army we have “Teen Group” we probably should change the name (Laughing) it is for ages 12-20. We talk about everything from Politics to Sex. There are no parents allowed and we just take the gloves off and let them talk. A lot of times we tell youth what they need to do but we do not listen to what they want or their complaints. We do these talks from Cleveland to Columbus.

Me: It seems like you guys stay busy. How could someone like me volunteer my services?

Juan: We are always looking for volunteers. We have a 5K coming up this summer for #PromotePositivity. We never have a 5K in the heart of the city. It is always in the Suburbs. So if you want to be apart of this event or anything else you can contact my assistant Laura Bartlett. Her email address is Laura@werbcg.com

Me: Good stuff! Is there anything else you want to let the people know?

Juan: Yes we have a HBCU Prep School here in Cleveland and we are always looking for people that went to a HBCU, on their way, or have some type of affiliation whether it was with the band, sports, or any type of organization. We have the only HBCU Prep School in the country, Kindergarten-5th grade.

Me: Man I love what you guys are doing in the Cleveland area. Keep up the great work! We need more young people like ourselves to give back to our communities.

Juan: That the right thing to do. We have to give back. My people we are trying to make giving back sexy. It is a movement! I appreciate you doing this interview.

Me: Thank you for your time and everything that you are doing! Stay blessed! Remember to Keep It GC!

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Rosa Parks Statue

Rosa-Parks-9433715-1-402Today, President Obama will present the unveiling of a magnificent 9-foot statue of Rosa Parks in Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill. This year marks the 100th birthday of the civil rights icon. The statue will be the first of an African American woman in our nations’ Capitol.

On Dec. 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up her seat on a municipal bus to a white man. Her arrest sparked the Montgomery bus boycott and other boycotts around the country. Rosa Parks was called, the mother of the freedom movement by many.

Rosa Parks was not the first woman to refuse to give up her seat on the bus; there was Irene Morgan of Virginia in 1944, Sarah Louise Keys in 1953, Aurelia Browder and 15-year-old Claudette Colvin, both in 1955. However, it was decided that Rosa Parks’ arrest for civil disobedience would be the best to highlight with the Alabama courts by the NAACP and her legal counsel.

Parks was serving a dual role as a seamstress and as secretary to the NAACP during the time of the incident. Though she lost her job at a local department store, her actions led to her image as an icon for change, giving hope and pride to many who wished to change the racist conditions in America.

The change of Alabama’s bus segregation laws was decided through the Browder vs. Gayle case in 1956. With the consult of NAACP legal representatives Thurgood Marshall and Robert Carter, the bus segregation cases of Mary Louise Smith, Claudette Colvin, Aurelia Browder, and Susie were re-opened in a civil suit against the City of Montgomery. W.A. Gayle, the mayor of Montgomery was named as the defendant in the case. The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court and by November 1956, bus segregation was ruled unconstitutional. The decision was enforced in Montgomery one month later.
Rosa Parks received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Springarn Medal, the Congressional Gold Medal and she is the first woman to lie in state at Capitol Hill’s rotunda.

Parks legacy is told in her autobiography, Rosa Parks: My Story. Since her passing, a host of streets, buildings, schools and events have been named in her honor. In addition, the bus that sparked the controversial event is on display at the Henry Ford Museum.

This year, the U.S. Postal Service issued a Rosa Parks stamp on the 100th birthday of the civil rights’ legend. The stamp, which was created by art director Derry Noyes and stamp artist Thomas Blackshear II, is part of the Civil Rights series, which will include the March on Washington and the Emancipation Proclamation. The value is equivalent to first-class postage.

Carter G. Woodson Father of Black History Month

Carter_G_Woodson_portraitCarter G Woodson was born December 19, 1875, the son of former enslaved Africans, James and Eliza Riddle Woodson. His father helped Union soldiers during the Civil War, and he moved his family to West Virginia when he heard that Huntington was building a high school for blacks. Coming from a large, poor family, Carter Woodson could not regularly attend school. Through self-instruction, Woodson mastered the fundamentals of common school subjects by age 17.

Wanting more education, Carter went to Fayette County to earn a living as a miner in the coal fields. He was able to devote only a few months each year to his schooling. In 1895, at the age of 20, Woodson entered Douglass High School, where he received his diploma in less than two years. From 1897 to 1900, Woodson taught at Winona in Fayette County. In 1900 he was selected as the principal of Douglass High School. He earned his Bachelor of Literature degree from Berea College in Kentucky in 1903 by taking classes part-time between 1901 and 1903.

From 1903 to 1907, Woodson was a school supervisor in the Philippines. Later, he attended the University of Chicago, where he was awarded an A.B. and A.M. in 1908. He was a member of the first black fraternity Sigma Pi Phi and a member of Omega Psi Phi. He completed his Ph.D. in history at Harvard University in 1912, where he was the second African American (after W.E.B. DuBois) to earn a doctorate. His doctoral dissertation,The Disruption of Virginia, was based on research he did at the Library of Congress while teaching high school in Washington, D.C. After earning the doctoral degree, he continued teaching in the public schools, later joining the faculty at Howard University as a professor, where he served as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Convinced that the role of his own people in American history and in the history of other cultures was being ignored or misrepresented among scholars, Woodson realized the need for research into the neglected past of African Americans. Along with Alexander L. Jackson, Woodson in 1915 published The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861. His other books followed: A Century of Negro Migration continues to be published by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).

Also in 1915 Woodson began the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History), which ran conferences, published The Journal of Negro History, and “particularly targeted those responsible for the education of black children”.

His final professional appointment in West Virginia was as the Dean of the West Virginia Collegiate Institute, now West Virginia State University, from 1920 to 1922.

He studied many aspects of African-American history. For instance, in 1924, he published the first survey of free black slaveowners in the United States in 1930. He once wrote: “If you can control a man’s thinking, you don’t have to worry about his actions. If you can determine what a man thinks you do not have to worry about what he will do. If you can make a man believe that he is inferior, you don’t have to compel him to seek an inferior status, he will do so without being told and if you can make a man believe that he is justly an outcast, you don’t have to order him to the back door, he will go to the back door on his own and if there is no back door, the very nature of the man will demand that you build one.”

After leaving Howard University because of differences with its president,[citation needed] Woodson devoted the rest of his life to historical research. He worked to preserve the history of African Americans and accumulated a collection of thousands of artifacts and publications. He noted that African-American contributions “were overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them.”Race prejudice, he concluded, “is merely the logical result of tradition, the inevitable outcome of thorough instruction to the effect that the Negro has never contributed anything to the progress of mankind.”

In 1926, Woodson pioneered the celebration of “Negro History Week”, designated for the second week in February, to coincide with marking the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The week of recognition became accepted and has been extended as the full month of February, now known as Black History Month.
Wikipedia

Madam C.J. Walker

Madame_CJ_WalkerMadam C.J. Walker, the first Self-Made American Female Millionaire in History!
was born Sarah Breedlove on December 23, 1867, on a cotton plantation near Delta, Louisiana. Her parents, Owen and Minerva, were recently freed slaves, and Sarah, who was their fifth child, was the first in her family to be free-born. Minerva Breedlove died in 1874 and Owen passed away the following year, both due to unknown causes, and Sarah became an orphan at the age of 7. After her parents’ passing, Sarah was sent to live with her sister, Louvinia, and her brother-in-law. The three moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1877, where Sarah picked cotton and was likely employed doing household work, although no documentation exists verifying her employment at the time.

At age 14, to escape both her oppressive working environment and the frequent mistreatment she endured at the hands of her brother-in-law, Sarah married a man named Moses McWilliams. On June 6, 1885, Sarah gave birth to a daughter, A’Leila. When Moses died two years later, Sarah and A’Lelia moved to St. Louis, where Sarah’s brothers had established themselves as barbers. There, Sarah found work as a washerwoman, earning $1.50 a day—enough to send her daughter to the city’s public schools. She also attended public night school whenever she could. While in St. Louis, Breedlove met her second husband Charles J. Walker, who worked in advertising and would later help promote her hair care business.

Early Entrepreneurship
During the 1890s, Sarah Breedlove developed a scalp disorder that caused her to lose much of her hair, and she began to experiment with both home remedies and store-bought hair care treatments in an attempt to improve her condition. In 1905, Breedlove was hired as a commission agent by Annie Turnbo Malone—a successful, black, hair care product entrepreneur—and she moved to Denver, Colorado. While there, Breedlove’s husband Charles helped her create advertisements for a hair care treatment for African Americans that she was perfecting. Her husband also encouraged her to use the more recognizable name “Madam C.J. Walker,” by which she was thereafter known.

In 1907, Walker and her husband traveled around the South and Southeast promoting her products and giving lecture demonstrations of her “Walker Method”—involving her own formula for pomade, brushing and the use of heated combs.

Success and Philanthropy
As profits continued to grow, in 1908 Walker opened a factory and a beauty school in Pittsburgh, and by 1910, when Walker transferred her business operations to Indianapolis, the Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company had become wildly successful, with profits that were the modern-day equivalent of several million dollars.

In Indianapolis, the company not only manufactured cosmetics, but trained sales beauticians. These “Walker Agents” became well known throughout the black communities of the United States. In turn, they promoted Walker’s philosophy of “cleanliness and loveliness” as a means of advancing the status of African Americans. An innovator, Walker organized clubs and conventions for her representatives, which recognized not only successful sales, but also philanthropic and educational efforts among African Americans.

In 1913, Walker and Charles divorced, and she traveled throughout Latin America and the Caribbean promoting her business and recruiting others to teach her hair care methods. While her mother traveled, A’Lelia Walker helped facilitate the purchase of property in Harlem, New York, recognizing that the area would be an important base for future business operations. In 1916, upon returning from her travels, Walker moved to her new townhouse in Harlem. From there, she would continue to operate her business, while leaving the day-to-day operations of her factory in Indianapolis to its forelady.

Walker quickly immersed herself in Harlem’s social and political culture. She founded philanthropies that included educational scholarships and donations to homes for the elderly, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the National Conference on Lynching, among other organizations focused on improving the lives of African Americans.

Death and Legacy
Madam C.J. Walker died of hypertension on May 25, 1919, at age 51, at the estate home she had built for herself in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York. At the time of her death, Walker was sole owner of her business, which was valued at more than $1 million. Her personal fortune was estimated at between $600,000 and $700,000. Today, Walker is widely credited as the first American woman to become a self-made millionaire.

Walker left one-third of her estate to her daughter, A’Lelia Walker—who would also become well-known as an important part of the cultural Harlem Renaissance—and the remainder to various charities. Walker’s funeral took place at her home, Villa Lewaro, in Irvington-on-Hudson, which was designated a National Historic Landmark, and she was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York.

In 1927, the Walker Building, an arts center that Walker had begun work on before her death, was opened in Indianapolis. An important African American cultural center for decades, it is now a registered National Historic Landmark. In 1998, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp of Madam C.J. Walker as part of its “Black Heritage” series.

© 2013 A+E Networks. All rights reserved.

Dear Jane


Dear Jane (Opposite of a ‘Dear John’ letter)
You know… I’ve tried
My intentions have been known, genuine, and true
I’ve done everything you’ve asked me to do
Never to you have I lied
So why am I tossed to the side?
Like shells thrown from your tide
No matter what mood you’re in, low or high
Like I’m not worthy of your space and time…
Time… after time after time…
Just know if you stay, if you stay, stuck on repeat
The last time is coming
Out of here like a record I’ll be skippin’
Through a rolodex I’ll be thumbing
“Return of the Mack” I’ll be humming
While taking my tools and pipe
To look at advertisements for plumbing
And it’s not even about that
But it’s clearly a fact that
The demise to this situation
Was foreshadowed, predictable, forthcoming…
But it was you who came to I
When the problem was with the other guy
So for you to act this way, I shouldn’t be surprised
It’s just… you said a good man is hard to find
That life isn’t a fair, but you keep getting in line
With hopes high, only to end up with cheap gifts
I’m top shelf baby! I wanted to be your prize
Your good morning, day, and night
Not an additional 4 to 9 to your 9 to 5
Look, if you haven’t noticed by now
Our frequency is not congruently designed
I’m forward, you’re rewind
And you’ve gone back so far
That our play is not mentally in present time
We would be like
Benjamin Button and Daisy or Doc and McFly
Confused if we were a bottle of wine, listen…
I’m just being real with you
Because honestly, I don’t know how to feel with you
But what I do know, is that I want to build with you
Not just chill with you
Bake with you in private settings
Not just meet at barbeques to grill with you
So what’s the deal with you?!
You know the number, call me boo
But make it quick, for I can’t make any promises
That by the time you do, that I’ll still come through
Or that if I come through that I’ll still call you boo
Or even out of the blue
On your door I’m knockin’
Just to return your boots…
Just letting you know that I’m open game
Until you leave baggage claim, Woo!
Sorry, I got distracted, caught a dime in my peripheral
I guess I’ll see ya when I see ya
I’ve got a field to view
Darian Fludd—

California’s Youngest Ever City Councilman

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by Carrie Healey

Michael Tubbs, a 22 year-old Stanford graduate, is the youngest ever city councilman to be elected in his hometown of Stockton, C.A.

Born into poverty to a teenage mother and father who is in prison, Tubbs grew up determined to make a difference.

Upon graduating from high school, Tubbs attended Stanford, where he earned a bachelor’s in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity and a master’s in Policy, Organization and Leadership Studies.

While in college, Tubbs interned for both Google and the White House. With multiple high-paying job offers, Tubbs decided to turn them down and return to his hometown to run for city council.

The struggling city of Stockton, C.A. is in need of serious change. In June of 2012, Stockton became themost populous U.S. city to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy. The city also has a record high number of homicides in 2012 with 71.

Tubbs first made headlines last spring when he received a campaign endorsement form Oprah Winfrey after meeting her on campus at Stanford. Winfrey donated $10,000 to the then-college senior.

Source: The Grio

Hiram Revels First Black Senator

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On February 25, 1870, visitors in the Senate galleries burst into applause as Mississippi senator-elect Hiram Revels of Mississippi entered the chamber to take his oath of office. Those present knew that they were witnessing an event of great historical significance. Revels was about to become the first African American to serve in the Senate.

Born 42 years earlier to free black parents in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Revels became an educator and minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
During the Civil War, he helped form regiments of African American soldiers and established schools for freed slaves. After the war, Revels moved to Mississippi, where he won election to the state senate. In recognition of his hard work and leadership skills, his legislative colleagues elected him to one of Mississippi’s vacant U.S. Senate seats as that state prepared to rejoin the Union.

Revels’ credentials arrived in the Senate on February 23, 1870, and were immediately blocked by a few members who had no desire to see a black man serve in Congress. Masking their racist views, they argued that Revels had not been a U.S. citizen for the nine years required of all senators. In their distorted interpretation, black Americans had only become citizens with the passage of the 1866 Civil Rights Act, just four years earlier. Revels’ supporters dismissed that statement, pointing out that he had been a voter many years earlier in Ohio and was therefore certainly a citizen.

Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner brought the debate to an end with a stirring speech. “The time has passed for argument. Nothing more need be said. For a long time it has been clear that colored persons must be senators.” Then, by an overwhelming margin, the Senate voted 48 to 8 to seat Revels.

Three weeks later, the Senate galleries again filled to capacity as Hiram Revels rose to make his first formal speech. Seeing himself as a representative of African American interests throughout the nation, he spoke—unsuccessfully as it turned out—against a provision included in legislation readmitting Georgia to the Union. He correctly predicted that the provision would be used to prohibit blacks from holding office in that state.

When Hiram Revels’ brief term ended on March 3, 1871, he returned to Mississippi, where he later became president of Alcorn College.
U.S. Congress. Senate. The Senate, 1789-1989, Vol. 2, by Robert C. Byrd. 100th Cong., 1st sess., 1991. S. Doc.100-20.

Remembering Emmett Till

Fourteen-year-old Emmett Till was visiting relatives in Money, Mississippi on August 24, 1955 when he reportedly flirted with a white cashier at a grocery store. Four days later, two white men kidnapped Till, beat him, and shot him in the head. The men were tried for murder, but an all-white, male jury acquitted them. Till’s murder and open casket funeral galvanized the emerging civil rights movement.
Emmett Louis Till was born on July 25, 1941 in Chicago, Illinois, the only child of Louis and Mamie Till. Till never knew his father, a private in the United States Army during World War II. Mamie and Louis Till separated in 1942, and three years later, in 1945, the family received word from the army that the soldier had been executed for “willful misconduct” while serving in Italy.

Emmett Till’s mother was by all accounts an extraordinary woman. Defying the social constraints and discrimination she faced as an African-American woman growing up in the 1920s and 1930s, Mamie Till excelled both academically and professionally. She was only the fourth black student to graduate from suburban Chicago’s predominantly white Argo Community High School and the first black student to make the school’s “A” Honor Roll. While raising Emmett Till as a single mother, she worked long hours for the Air Force as a clerk in charge of secret and confidential files.

Emmett Till, who went by the nickname Bobo, grew up in a thriving, middle-class black neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. The neighborhood was a haven for black-owned businesses, and the streets he roamed as a child were lined with black-owned insurance companies, pharmacies and beauty salons as well as nightclubs that drew the likes of Duke Ellington and Sarah Vaughan. Those who knew Till best described him as a responsible, funny, and infectiously high-spirited child. He was stricken with polio at the age of five but managed to make a full recovery, save a slight stutter that remained with him for the rest of his life.

With his mother often working more than 12-hour days, Till took on his full share of domestic responsibilities from a very young age. His mother recalls, “Emmett had all the house responsibility. I mean everything was really on his shoulders, and Emmett took it upon himself. He told me if I would work, and make the money, he would take care of everything else. He cleaned, and he cooked quite a bit. And he even took over the laundry.”

Till attended the all-black McCosh Grammar School. His classmate and childhood pal, Richard Heard, later recalled, “Emmett was a funny guy all the time. He had a suitcase of jokes that he liked to tell. He loved to make people laugh. He was a chubby kid; most of the guys were skinny, but he didn’t let that stand in his way. He made a lot of friends at McCosh.”

In August 1955, Till’s great uncle Moses Wright came up from Mississippi to visit the family in Chicago. At the end of his stay, Wright was planning to take Till’s cousin, Wheeler Parker, back to Mississippi with him to visit relatives down South, and when Till learned of these plans he begged his mother to let him go along.
Initially, Till’s mother said no. She wanted to take a road trip to Omaha, Nebraska and attempted to lure Till to join her with the promise of open-road driving lessons. But Till desperately wanted to spend time with his cousins in Mississippi, and in a fateful decision that would have grave impact on their lives and the course of American history, Till’s mother relented and let him go.

1955—the day before Till left with his uncle and cousin for Mississippi—Mamie Till gave her son his late father’s signet ring, engraved with the initials L.T. The next day she drove her son to the 63rd Street station in Chicago. They kissed goodbye, and Till boarded a southbound train headed for Mississippi. It was the last time they ever saw each other.

Three days after arriving in Money, Mississippi, on August 24, 1955, Emmett Till and a group of teenagers entered Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market to buy refreshments after a long day picking cotton in the hot afternoon sun. What exactly transpired inside the grocery store that afternoon will never be known. Till purchased bubble gum, and some of the kids with him would later report that he either whistled at, flirted with, or touched the hand of the store’s white female clerk—and wife of the owner—Carolyn Bryant.

Four days later, at approximately 2:30 in the morning on August 28, 1955, Roy Bryant, Carolyn’s husband, and his half brother J.W. Milam kidnapped Till from Moses Wright’s home. They then beat the teenager brutally, dragged him to the bank of the Tallahatchie River, shot him in the head, tied him with barbed wire to a large metal fan and shoved his mutilated body into the water. Moses Wright reported Till’s disappearance to the local authorities, and three days later his corpse was pulled out of the river. Till’s face was mutilated beyond recognition, and Wright only managed to positively identify him by the ring on his finger, engraved with his father’s initials, L.T.

Till’s body was shipped to Chicago, where his mother opted to have an open-casket funeral with Till’s body on display for five days. Thousands of people came to the Roberts Temple Church of God to see the evidence of this brutal hate crime. Till’s mother said that, despite the enormous pain it caused her to see her son’s dead body on display, she opted for an open-casket funeral to “let the world see what has happened, because there is no way I could describe this. And I needed somebody to help me tell what it was like.”

In the weeks that passed between Till’s burial and the murder and kidnapping trial of Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, two black publications, Jet magazine and the Chicago Defender, published graphic images of Till’s corpse. By the time the trial commenced on September 19, Emmett Till’s murder had become a source of outrage and indignation throughout much of the country. Because blacks and women were barred from serving jury duty, Bryant and Milam were tried before an all-white, all-male jury. In an act of extraordinary bravery, Moses Wright took the stand and identified Bryant and Milam as Till’s kidnappers and killers.
At the time, it was almost unheard of for blacks to openly accuse whites in court, and by doing so Wright put his own life in grave danger.

Despite the overwhelming evidence of the defendants’ guilt and widespread pleas for justice from outside Mississippi, on September 23 the panel of white male jurors acquitted Bryant and Milam of all charges. Their deliberations lasted a mere 67 minutes. Only a few months later, in January 1956,
Bryant and Milam admitted to committing the crime. Protected by double jeopardy laws, they told the whole story of how they kidnapped and killed Emmett Till to Look magazine for $4,000.

Coming only one year after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education mandated the end of racial segregation in public schools, Till’s death provided an important catalyst for the American Civil Rights Movement. One hundred days after Emmett Till’s murder, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on an Alabama city bus, sparking the yearlong Montgomery bus boycott. Nine years later, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, outlawing many forms of racial discrimination and segregation, one year later it passed the Voting Rights Act outlawing discriminatory voting practices.

Although she never stopped feeling the pain from her son’s death, Mamie Till (who died of heart failure in 2003) also recognized that what happened to Emmett Till helped open Americans’ eyes to the racial hatred plaguing their country, and in doing so helped spark a massive protest movement for racial equality and justice. Before Till’s murder, she said, “people really didn’t know that things this horrible could take place. And the fact that it happened to a child, that make all the difference in the world.”

© 2013 A+E Networks. All rights reserved.

Booker T. Washington

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Booker T. Washington, 1856-1915, Educator. Booker Taliaferro Washington was the foremost black educator of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He also had a major influence on southern race relations and was the dominant figure in black public affairs from 1895 until his death in 1915. Born a slave on a small farm in the Virginia backcountry, he moved with his family after emancipation to work in the salt furnaces and coal mines of West Virginia. After a secondary education at Hampton Institute, he taught an upgraded school and experimented briefly with the study of law and the ministry, but a teaching position at Hampton decided his future career. In 1881 he founded Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute on the Hampton model in the Black Belt of Alabama.

Though Washington offered little that was innovative in industrial education, which both northern philanthropic foundations and southern leaders were already promoting, he became its chief black exemplar and spokesman. In his advocacy of Tuskegee Institute and its educational method, Washington revealed the political adroitness and accommodationist philosophy that were to characterize his career in the wider arena of race leadership. He convinced southern white employers and governors that Tuskegee offered an education that would keep blacks “down on the farm” and in the trades. To prospective northern donors and particularly the new self- made millionaires such as Rockefeller and Carnegie he promised the inculcation of the Protestant work ethic. To blacks living within the limited horizons of the post- Reconstruction South, Washington held out industrial education as the means of escape from the web of sharecropping and debt and the achievement of attainable, petit-bourgeois goals of self-employment, landownership, and small business. Washington cultivated local white approval and secured a small state appropriation, but it was northern donations that made Tuskegee Institute by 1900 the best-supported black educational institution in the country.

The Atlanta Compromise Address, delivered before the Cotton States Exposition in 1895, enlarged Washington’s influence into the arena of race relations and black leadership. Washington offered black acquiescence in disfranchisement and social segregation if whites would encourage black progress in economic and educational opportunity. Hailed as a sage by whites of both sections, Washington further consolidated his influence by his widely read autobiography Up From Slavery (1901), the founding of the National Negro Business League in 1900, his celebrated dinner at the White House in 1901, and control of patronage politics as chief black advisor to Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.

Washington kept his white following by conservative policies and moderate utterances, but he faced growing black and white liberal opposition in the Niagara Movement (1905-9) and the NAACP (1909-), groups demanding civil rights and encouraging protest in response to white aggressions such as lynchings, disfranchisement, and segregation laws. Washington successfully fended off these critics, often by underhanded means. At the same time, however, he tried to translate his own personal success into black advancement through secret sponsorship of civil rights suits, serving on the boards of Fisk and Howard universities, and directing philanthropic aid to these and other black colleges. His speaking tours and private persuasion tried to equalize public educational opportunities and to reduce racial violence. These efforts were generally unsuccessful, and the year of Washington’s death marked the beginning of the Great Migration from the rural South to the urban North. Washington’s racial philosophy, pragmatically adjusted to the limiting conditions of his own era, did not survive the change.

Louis R. Harlan
University of Maryland