Booker T. Washington : biography
Washington’s work on education problems helped him enlist both the moral and substantial financial support of many major white philanthropists. He became friends with such self-made men as Standard Oil magnate Henry Huttleston Rogers; Sears, Roebuck and Company President Julius Rosenwald; and George Eastman, inventor and founder of Kodak. These individuals and many other wealthy men and women funded his causes, including Hampton and Tuskegee institutes.
National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.]] The schools Washington supported were founded primarily to produce teachers. However, graduates had often returned to their largely impoverished rural southern communities to find few schools and educational resources, as the state legislatures consistently underfunded black schools in their segregated system. To address those needs, Washington enlisted his philanthropic network to create matching funds programs to stimulate construction of numerous rural public schools for black children in the South. Working especially with Julius Rosenwald from Chicago, Washington had Tuskegee architects develop model school designs. The Rosenwald Fund helped support the construction and operation of more than 5,000 schools and supporting resources for the betterment of blacks throughout the South in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. The local schools were a source of communal pride and were priceless to African-American families when poverty and segregation limited severely the life chances of the pupils. A major part of Washington’s legacy, the model rural schools continued to be constructed, with matching funds from the Rosenwald Fund, into the 1930s. Washington also helped with the Progressive Era by forming the National Negro Business League.
His autobiography, Up From Slavery, first published in 1901, is still widely read today.
Wealthy friends and benefactors
State and local governments gave little money to black schools, but white philanthropists proved willing to invest heavily. Washington encouraged them and directed millions of their money to projects all across the South that Washington thought best reflected his self0help philosophy. Washington associated with the richest and most powerful businessmen and politicians of the era. He was seen as a spokesperson for African Americans and became a conduit for funding educational programs. His contacts included such diverse and well-known personages as Andrew Carnegie, William Howard Taft, John D. Rockefeller, Henry Huttleston Rogers, George Eastman, Julius Rosenwald, Robert Ogden, Collis Potter Huntington and William Henry Baldwin Jr., who donated large sums of money to agencies such as the Jeanes and Slater Funds. As a result, countless small schools were established through his efforts, in programs that continued many years after his death. Along with rich white men, the black communities were enabled to help their communities by donating time, money and labor to schools in a sort of matching fund.Norrell, Up from History (2009) pp pp 273-5, 368-70
A representative case of an exceptional relationship was Washington’s friendship with millionaire industrialist and financier Henry H. Rogers (1840–1909). Henry Rogers was a self-made man, who had risen from a modest working-class family to become a principal of Standard Oil, and had become one of the richest men in the United States. Around 1894 Rogers heard Washington speak at Madison Square Garden. The next day he contacted Washington and requested a meeting, during which Washington later recounted that he was told that Rogers "was surprised that no one had ‘passed the hat’ after the speech." The meeting began a close relationship that was to extend over a period of 15 years. Although he and the very-private Rogers openly became visible to the public as friends, and Washington was a frequent guest at Rogers’ New York office, his Fairhaven, Massachusetts summer home, and aboard his steam yacht Kanawha, the true depth and scope of their relationship was not publicly revealed until after Rogers’ sudden death of an stroke in May 1909.