Booker T. Washington died in Tuskegee, Alabama on November 14, 1915. He was a complex man who left behind a complicated legacy.

He felt education could provide many poor African Americans with the opportunity for advancement and racial equality. For those who didn't have the money or educational background to attend college, he offered an important alternative to the more elite liberal arts degree. He contributed to the vital tradition of higher learning in this country and the democratic belief that a college education should be available to all, despite their race or class.

He was able to promote his educational system for poor blacks by forging a compromise with whites who offered support in exchange for limited goals. While this compromise allowed many forms of racial inequality, it also allowed Washington to provide an education for African Americans when that usually provoked physical violence.

Perhaps his most lasting legacy is his vision of education as the key to true individual freedom and achievement.


Last updated: February 26, 2015

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