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8 Booker T. Washington Quotes That Still Resonate To The Plight of Black America Today

Booker T. Washington is one of the most notable Black leaders in Black history in the United States. In Washington’s autobiography Up From Slavery (1901), he didn’t know the exact year, date, and place of his birth or his father’s name. However, it is widely agreed upon by historians that Washington was born enslaved on April 5, 1856 in Hale’s Ford, Virginia. The scholar mother’s name was Jane and his father was a white man from a nearby plantation. At the age of nine, Washington was freed from slavery and moved to West Virginia. Washington had always been known as simply “Booker” until he decided to add the name “Washington” after feeling the pressure to have two names when he began going to grammar school.

At 16-years-old Washington started college at the Hampton Normal and Agriculture Institute in Hampton, Virginia. Washington attended Wayland Seminary from 1878 to 1879 before returning to teach at Hampton. As a result of a recommendation from Hampton officials, he would later become the first principal of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (now Tuskegee University), which opened on July 4, 1881; he remained in this capacity for 34 years until his death in 1915.

Booker T. Washington (1895) ‘Atlanta Compromise Speech’

Washington died at his home on the Tuskegee Institute campus on November 14, 1915.  He was 59 at the time of his death. Here are eight Booker. T Washington quotes that still resonate to the plight of Black America today.

1. “There is a certain class of race problem-solvers who don’t want the patient to get well, because as long as the disease holds out they have not only an easy means of making a living, but also an easy medium through which to make themselves prominent before the public.”

2. “The older I grow, the more I am convinced that there is no education which one can get from books and costly apparatus that is equal to that which can be gotten from contact with great men and women.”

3. “Never get to the point where you will be ashamed to ask anybody for information. The ignorant man will always be ignorant if he fears that by asking another for information he will display ignorance. Better once display your ignorance of a certain subject than always know nothing of it.”

4. “Success is not measured by where you are in life, but the obstacles you’ve over come.”

5. “Political activity alone cannot make a man free. Back of the ballot, he must have property, industry, skill, economy, intelligence, and character.”

6. “The circumstances that surround a man’s life are not important. How that man responds to those circumstances IS IMPORTANT. His response is the ultimate determining factor between success and failure.”
7. “A race, like an individual, lifts itself up by lifting others up.”
8. “Let us keep before us the fact that, almost without exception, every race or nation that has ever got upon its feet has done so through struggle and trial and persecution; and that out of this very resistance to wrong, out of the struggle against odds, they have gained strength, self-confidence, and experience which they could not have gained in any other way.”


Bush, L. (2007, January 17). Booker T. Washington (1856-1915).

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