White Americans responded with enthusiasm to Washington's racial policies, and made him the national Negro leader. It startled the nation, wrote DuBois, to hear a Negro advocating such a program after many decades of bitter complaint; it startled and won the applause of the South, it interested and won the admiration of the North; and after a confused murmur of protest, it silenced if it did not convert the Negroes themselves. Northern whites saw in Washington's doctrine a peace formula between the races in the South. Southern whites liked the program because it did not involve political, civil, and social aspirations, and it would consign the Negro to an inferior status.
Booker T. Washington emerged in the midst of worsening social, political, and economic conditions for American blacks. His racial program set the terms for the debate on Negro programs for the decades between 1895 and 1915. Washington is remembered chiefly for this Atlanta Compromise address. In this speech, he called on white America to provide jobs and industrial-agricultural education for Negroes. In exchange, blacks would give up demands for social equality and civil rights.
Washington emphasized the importance of the industrial curriculum in his development of Tuskegee's curriculum. A course study that Washington saw fit, was a course study that trained Southern blacks to become farmers, carpenters, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, brick masons, engineers, cooks, laundresses, sewing women, house keepers, and later tailors - as Washington noticed "that it was almost impossible to find in the whole country an educated colored man who could teach the making of clothing." As support for the Tuskegee Institute increased, over the years, so did the enrollment and selection of trade skill classes offered. The students received "hands-on" instruction in the trade of their choice, and more than half of the students were actually employed and receiving pay in their trade, while learning at the same time.
Starting with a broken down building, he used his ability to win the trust of white Southerners and Northern philanthropists to make Tuskegee into a model school of industrial education. He reassured whites that nothing in his educational program challenged white supremacy or offered economic competition with whites. He accepted racial subordination as a necessary evil, at least until such time as blacks could prove themselves worthy of full civil and political rights. As far as blacks were concerned, Washington insisted that industrial education would enable them to lift themselves up by their bootstraps and escape the trap of sharecropping and debt.
Determined to educate himself, he traveled hundreds of miles under great hardship until he arrived -- broke, tired, and dirty -- at Hampton Institute. He became a star pupil under the tutelage of General Samuel Chapman Armstrong, head of Hampton
Booker's family did not continue to work for the Burroughses. Instead, they set out for Malden, West Virginia, where Booker's stepfather, Washington Ferguson, lived.
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.
Booker remembered the day a stranger came to the Burrough's farm, telling the slaves they were free. Booker - who had been a slave for his nine years of life - recalled "great rejoicing, and thanksgiving and wild scenes of ecstasy." His mother "leaned over and kissed her children, while tears ran down her cheeks."
Washington described the early years of his life as being "not very different from those of thousands of other slaves." He had the desire to get an education but was not allowed to go to school, although he was expected to carry the books to school for Laura Burroughs, one of the owner's daughters who was a teacher
On April 5, 1856, Booker T. Washington was born a slave on the 207-arce farm of James Burroughs. After the Civil War, Washington became the first principal of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial School. Later as an adviser, author and orator, his past would influence his philosophies as the most influential African American of his era