Booker was about twelve when he first set foot in a classroom and discovered that he needed a last name. He invented one on the spot, and for the rest of his life, he was Booker Washington. It was then and still is a civics lesson for America. As a slave born on the Burroughs Plantation in 1856, he was simply Booker. But as a freed individual determined to make something of himself, he chose to identify with his country’s founder.
Booker T. Washington—he added the T later—spent the rest of his life getting educated and educating others, black and white. He is out of fashion these days because he preached black advancement through relentless hard work and veered away from challenging the racist public policies of his time. But he still has something to teach us, namely that Americans have to own their history.Read More