Ladder for Booker T. Washington

20-B Martin Puryear, Ladder for Booker T. Washington, 1996 Martin Puryear (1941–), Ladder for Booker T. Washington, 1996. Wood (ash and maple), 432 x 22 3/4 in., narrowing at the top to 1¼ x 3 in. (1097.28 x, narrowing to 3.175 x 7.6 cm.). Collection of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Gift of Ruth Carter Stevenson, by Exchange.

Artist Connection

Historical Connection:

Washington, Booker T.

Booker Taliaferro Washington, b. Franklin County, Va., Apr. 5, 1856, d. Nov. 14, 1915, was an American educator and a black leader. As a child he worked in coal mines nine months a year and attended school for three months. He worked his way through Hampton Institute, graduating in 1875. In 1881 he was appointed the first president of Tuskegee Institute, an Alabama trade school for blacks. Tuskegee opened with one teacher, about 50 pupils, and funds of $2,000 a year from the state of Alabama. By its 25th anniversary under Washington's leadership, the school had more than 1,500 students training in 37 industries.
Although Washington lived during a time when his race was widely discriminated against, he advocated training black people for trades to build up their economic position before fighting for integration and equality. He believed that black people would advance only if they were educated. This strategy was opposed by others, notably W. E. B. Du Bois. When Washington presented his views in a speech at the Atlanta Exposition in 1895, he rapidly gained the attention of white leaders. He became influential in channeling contributions to black causes and in getting blacks appointed to federal jobs. He advised Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft on racial matters. Washington wrote several books, including an autobiography, Up from Slavery (1901).

Source: "Washington, Booker T." Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. Grolier Online, 2010. Web. 26 Dec. 2010.

Literary Connection


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