Page Header

Dr. Booker Taliaferro Washington

Born April 5, 1856, in Franklin County, Virginia, Booker Taliaferro was the son of an unknown White man and Jane, an enslaved cook of James Burroughs, a small planter.

Jane named her son Booker Taliaferro but later dropped the second name. Booker gave himself the surname "Washington" when he first enrolled in school. Sometime after Booker's birth, his mother was married to Washington Ferguson, a slave. A daughter, Amanda, was born to this marriage. James, Booker's younger half-brother, was adopted. Booker's elder brother, John, was also the son of a White man.

Booker spent his first nine years as a slave on the Burroughs farm. In 1865, his mother took her children to Malden, West Virginia, to join her husband, who had gone there earlier and found work in the salt mines. At age nine, Booker was put to work packing salt. Between the ages of ten and twelve, he worked in a coal mine. He attended school while continuing to work in the mines. In 1871, he went to work as a houseboy for the wife of Gen. Lewis Ruffner, owner of the mines.

Securing an Education ...
In 1872, at age sixteen, Booker T. Washington entered Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Virginia. The dominant personality at the school, which had opened in 1868 under the auspices of the American Missionary Association, was the principal, Samuel Chapman Armstrong, the son of American missionaries in Hawaii.

Educating Others ...
In 1880, a bill that included a yearly appropriation of $2,000 was passed by the Alabama State Legislature to establish a school for Blacks in Macon County.

Establishing a legacy ...
Washington was married three times. In 1882, he married Fannie N. Smith. She died two years later, leaving an infant daughter, Portia. In 1885, Washington married Olivia Davidson, who died in 1889. Two sons were born to this marriage: Booker Taliaferro, Jr. and Ernest Davidson. In 1893, Washington was married to Fisk University graduate Margaret Murray, who had come to Tuskegee as lady principal in 1889. Washington died November 14, 1915, at age fifty-nine. He is buried on campus.