He died 100 years ago, in 1915.
“It might be a good year to revisit the life of Booker T. Washington,” said Gary Moore, North Carolina State University professor of agriculture education.
Part of the Oliver Archives Heritage Lecture Series, Moore’s lecture on Washington will begin at 3:30 p.m. today in the Hall of Christ.
“Some think he was a saint. Others think he was evil incarnate,” said Moore, president of the Association of Career and Technical Education.
In any case, Washington was an instrumental player in post-Civil War race relations, an advocate of whites and blacks working together, and he was persistent in believing life without education or a trade is not much of a life at all.
In his talk, Moore will briefly review Washington’s life and contributions and some of his trials and tribulations. The extreme highs came with extreme lows, sometimes in the very same instance.
Washington had been invited to dine at the White House, and in response, the Southern papers excoriated him, as did the governor of Mississippi — in tone and verbiage not fit to print.
At one time, a group of white men from Louisiana hired an assassin to kill Washington, Moore said. The would-be assassin was injured before he could complete his task and was taken to Tuskegee Institute, which Washington led, for medical care. Once healed, the assassin changed his mind.
As well, Washington had many powerful friends and associates: Henry H. Rogers, a principal officer of Standard Oil, Anna T. Jeanes, a prominent Philadelphia Quaker, and Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck and Company, among others.
Moore said that Washington’s critics claim he did not support the right to vote for black people. Washington, indeed, maintained social and political standards, and believed that the right to vote should be limited to literate people of all races. Illiterates, whether black or white, should not be allowed to vote.
Moore said he tries to take a balanced view toward Washington and his accomplishments, similar, in ways, to Washington’s conduct of his own life.
“When in the North, he stayed in hotels. In the South, he stayed with friends,” Moore said. “Washington believed in adopting the culture of where he was at the time.”