Booker T. Washington Letter
Booker T. Washington Letter, exhibited at Los Angeles Central Library

Booker T. Washington, Writer With a Mission

Twenty-five miles southeast of Roanoke is where the Booker T. Washington National Monument is located as a reminder of Washington’s birthplace on a plantation in Piedmont, Virginia. It includes a trail that takes you along reconstructions of 19th century buildings, a farm area, a garden area, and a place to picnic. (The population of nearby Roanoke is approximately 97,000.) Though serene and restful now, Washington’s early life was anything but that. Born enslaved, he endured physical abuse, excessive hard labor, an impoverished home, and intractable obstacles to education in his youth.

But, after emancipation, Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) pursued literacy that led to higher learning, with relentless passion and vigor, eventually earning scholarships, teaching positions, and the opportunity to establish the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (now Tuskegee University in Alabama). Notable alumni include Ralph Ellison, Claude McKay, and the Tuskegee Airmen.

Major Literary Work

Booker T. Washington, an author, presidential and political advisor, and educator, made a lasting mark on history when he published his book, Up from Slavery, which is a must-read for anyone interested in a first-hand account of one man’s journey from slavery to stature. Read it and discover why the number 18 was life-changing for him. Find details about his life here: https://www.biography.com/activist/booker-t-washington.

Read more about Washington in our West Virginia and Massachusetts sections. It is also helpful to read about his rivalrous association with W.E.B. DuBois, a contemporary scholar with whom he held a strong philosophical disagreement that spanned decades: W.E.B. DuBois in Massachusetts.

The Booker T. Washington National Monument is the first stop on our Virginia Author Adventures Trail for travelers heading west-east or can be the final stop for those traveling from the east.

Patricia Smart