Booker T. Washington : biography
Northern critics called Washington’s followers the "Tuskegee Machine". After 1909, Washington was criticized by the leaders of the new NAACP, especially W. E. B. Du Bois, who demanded a stronger tone of protest for advancement of civil rights needs. Washington replied that confrontation would lead to disaster for the outnumbered blacks, and that cooperation with supportive whites was the only way to overcome pervasive racism in the long run. At the same time, he secretly funded litigation for civil rights cases, such as challenges to southern constitutions and laws that disfranchised blacks. Washington was on close terms with national republican leaders, and often was asked for political advice by presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.
In addition to his contributions in education, Washington wrote 14 books; his autobiography, Up From Slavery, first published in 1901, is still widely read today. During a difficult period of transition, he did much to improve the working relationship between the races. His work greatly helped blacks to achieve higher education, financial power and understanding of the U.S. legal system. This contributed to blacks’ attaining the skills to create and support the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, leading to the passage of important federal civil rights laws.
Booker T. Washington’s coffin being carried to grave site. Despite his travels and widespread work, Washington remained as principal of Tuskegee. Washington’s health was deteriorating rapidly; he collapsed in New York City and was brought home to Tuskegee, where he died on November 14, 1915, at the age of 59. He was buried on the campus of Tuskegee University near the University Chapel.
His death was believed at the time to have been a result of congestive heart failure, aggravated by overwork. In March 2006, with the permission of his descendants, examination of medical records indicated that he died of hypertension, with a blood pressure more than twice normal, confirming what had long been suspected.
At his death Tuskegee’s endowment exceeded $1.5 million. Washington’s greatest life’s work, the education of blacks in the South, was well underway and expanding.
- The Future of the American Negro – 1899
- The Negro in the South – with W.E.B. Du Bois – 1907
- Tuskegee & Its People – (editor) – 1905
- Up from Slavery – 1901
- Working With the Hands – 1904
Up from Slavery to the White House
Washington’s long-term advisor, Timothy Thomas Fortune (1856–1928), a respected African American economist and editor of the most widely read newspaper in the US black community – The New York Age, was the ghost writer and editor of Washington’s first autobiography, The Story of My Life and Work. Charlotte D. Fitzgerald, "The Story of My Life and Work: Booker T. Washington’s Other Autobiography," The Black Scholar (2001) 21#4 pp 35–40
Washington published five books during his lifetime with the aid of ghost-writers Timothy Fortune, Max Bennett Thrasher and Robert E. Park. They were compilations of speeches and essays:
- The Story of My Life and Work (1900)
- Up From Slavery (1901)
- The Story of the Negro: The Rise of the Race from Slavery (2 vol 1909)
- My Larger Education (1911)
- The Man Farthest Down (1912)
In an effort to inspire the "commercial, agricultural, educational, and industrial advancement" of African Americans, Washington founded the National Negro Business League (NNBL) in 1900..
When Washington’s second autobiography, Up From Slavery, was published in 1901, it became a bestseller and had a major impact on the African American community, its friends and allies. President Theodore Roosevelt, after reading Up From Slavery, was impressed enough to organize and invite Washington to a formal White House dinner to allow Southern Senators, foreign ambassadors and others either opposed or indifferent to the plight of the disfranchised African Americans, to give them the opportunity to hear Booker T. Washington first hand.