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He Put the Book in Booker

Are you familiar with Booker T. Washington? If you answered, “He is famous for the song Green Onions”, you would be incorrect. That would be Booker T. & The MG’s. This is another Booker T.


Booker T. Washington was considered one of the shrewdest African American leaders of all time. As one commentator stated, Washington was modest but "too dignified to be humble". Washington had a great influence on various African American writings and his influence can still be seen today.


It sounds like he may have had a sense of humor. From his book, Up From Slavery, he wrote, "I am not quite sure of the exact place or exact date of my birth, but at any rate I suspect I must have been born somewhere and at sometime"


Booker Taliaferro Washington was born on a slave plantation in Franklin County, Virginia on April 5, 1856, where his mother worked as a cook.


Washington's father, who he knew little of, was suspected to be a white man who worked on a near-by plantation. Growing up on the slave plantation, Washington lived in the most destitute surroundings. His "home" was a fourteen by sixteen square foot log cabin that he shared with his mother, brother, and sister. He spent most of his time on the plantation doing odd work, such as cleaning and working at the mill, since he was too small to do much more.


But he did not let that hold him back. Booker T. Washington became a leading African American intellectual of the 19 century.


He founded Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (Now Tuskegee University) in 1881 and the National Negro Business League two decades later.


He advised President Theodore Roosevelt and President William Howard Taft.


His infamous conflicts with Black leaders like W. E. B. Du Bois over segregation caused a stir, but today, he is remembered as the most influential African American speaker of his time. (history.com)


But let’s back up a little bit.

At age 16, after the Civil War had ended, Booker walked nearly 500 miles to attend the Hampton Institute in Virginia, founded by Union General Samuel Chapman Armstrong.


Graduating from the Hampton Institute in 1875,Booker T. Washington wrote in his book, Up From Slavery, 1901: “Perhaps the most valuable thing that I got out of my second year at the Hampton Institute was an understanding of the use and value of the Bible.


“Miss Nathalie Lord, one of the teachers, from Portland, Maine, taught me how to use and love the Bible…


“I learned to love to read the Bible, not only for the spiritual help which it gives, but on account of it as literature.


“The lessons taught me in this respect took such a hold upon me that at the present time, when I am at home, no matter how busy I am, I always make it a rule to read a chapter or a portion of a chapter in the morning, before beginning the work of the day.


Whatever ability I may have as a public speaker I owe in a measure to Miss Lord.”


Later, Booker T. Washington attended Wayland Baptist Seminary in Washington, DC.


He moved to West Virginia and worked in a salt furnace and coal mine.


In 1876, he taught school in Malden, West Virginia, where he also taught a Sunday School class at the African Zion Baptist Church.


He returned to teach at the Hampton Institute. And in 1881, at the age of 25, Booker T. Washington founded the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama with 33 students. Students not only had to learn academics, but also trade skills. They grew their own crops and raised livestock.


What an incredible legacy! But that’s not all.


Booker T. Washington hired Robert Robinson Taylor, the first African-America architect from MIT, who graduated near the top of his class.


Students made the bricks and helped build over 100 campus building, constructing classrooms, barns, outbuildings, and in 1899, Tuskegee’s impressive chapel.


In the Spring of 1896, Booker T. Washington invited George Washington Carver to teach at Tuskegee, and he became friends with the leading men of his day, including:


President William McKinley;

President Theodore Roosevelt;

President William H. Taft;

Steel industrialist Andrew Carnegie;

Standard Oil’s John D. Rockefeller and Henry Huttleston Rogers;

George Eastman, inventor and founder of Kodak; and

Sears, Roebuck & Company President Julius Rosenwald.


Julius Rosenwald funded a pilot program of over 100 elementary schools, designed and operated by Tuskegee.


Rosenwald and Carnegie took a “matching fund” approach to expand to 4,977 schools, 217 teacher homes and 163 shop buildings in 15 States.


And, an Agricultural College on Wheels taught over 2,000 farmers in 28 States. (source: fggam.org)


What a man. What a plan!


You see, God had a plan for this man’s life. He may have born in a slave hut on a plantation in Franklin County, Virginia, but God had a plan.


He may have never known his earthly father, but his Heavenly Father had a plan for his life.


He may have become quite famous in his day, but he also remained quite humble.


Shortly after he took over the presidency of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, he was walking in an exclusive section of town when he was stopped by a wealthy white woman. Not knowing the famous Mr. Washington by sight, she asked if he would like to earn a few dollars by chopping wood for her. Because he had no pressing business at the moment, Professor Washington smiled, rolled up his sleeves, and proceeded to do the humble chore she had requested. When he was finished, he carried the logs into the house and stacked them by the fireplace.


A little girl recognized him and later revealed his identity to the lady. The next morning the embarrassed woman went to see Mr. Washington in his office at the Institute and apologized profusely. “It’s perfectly all right, Madam,” he replied. “Occasionally I enjoy a little manual labor. Besides, it’s always a delight to do something for a friend.” She shook his hand warmly and assured him that his meek and gracious attitude had endeared him and his work to her heart.


Not long afterward she showed her admiration by persuading some wealthy acquaintances to join her in donating thousands of dollars to the Tuskegee Institute. – Our Daily Bread


God had a plan, and we will have no idea this side of heaven the kind of impact that man, one man, had on earth’s history. He certainly changed the lives of thousands of people.


Psalm 33:11 tells us that the plans of the Lord stand firm forever. That is as true for you and me as it was for King David.


God’s plan is always better. Romans 8:28 says, we can be sure that every detail in our lives is worked into something good. I would add “If we allow it.” God will not fight us. If we insist on our way, He will let us have our way, but His way is better.


“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 KJV


Yes! His way is better my friend. We can trust our Heavenly Abba who only and consistently, wants nothing but good for us.


by Jeanette Stark – Monday, November 28, 2022

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