Born a slave on a Virginia farm, Washington (1856-1915) rose to become one of the most influential African-American intellectuals of the late 19th century. In 1881, he founded the Tuskegee Institute, a black school in Alabama devoted to training teachers. Washington was also behind the formation of the National Negro Business League 20 years later, and he served as an adviser to Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. Although Washington clashed with other black leaders such as W. E. B. Du Bois and drew ire for his seeming acceptance of segregation, he is recognized for his educational advancements and attempts to promote economic self-reliance among African Americans.
Across the landscape of the most anguished era of American race relations (1895-1915) strode the self-assured and influential Booker T. Washington. The foremost black educator, power broker, and institution builder of his time, Washington in 1881 founded Tuskegee Institute, a black school in Alabama devoted to industrial and moral education and to the training of public school teachers. From his southern small-town base, he created a national political network of schools, newspapers, and the National Negro Business League (founded in 1901). In response to the age of Jim Crow, Washington offered the doctrine of accommodation, acquiescing in social and political inequality for blacks while training them for economic self-determination in the industrial arts.
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