Born into slavery in 1856 on a 207-acre tobacco plantation in southwest Virginia, Booker T. Washington overcame almost impossible odds to become one of the most influential black leaders and educators of the 20th century. The realities of life as a slave, the quest by African Americans for education and equality, and the struggle for political participation shaped his choices.
A lifelong proponent of education as the key to individual freedom and achievement, Washington earned a degree from Hampton Institute. He founded Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1881 and as its first principal established an educational program emphasizing agricultural and industrial training. He died at Tuskegee in 1915 at the age of 59.
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