African Diaspora Education Staff Writer  

Why is Booker T. Washington important today?

Booker T. Washington (image source) was born in 1856 in the state of Virginia in the USA. He “was born in a slave hut but, after emancipation, moved with his family to Malden, West Virginia” (source).

For local context of Washington’s birthdate, in South Africa the Nongqawuse cattle killings occurred in 1856. Nongqawuse, a Xhosa speaker, influenced decisions of her People immediately before significant colonial take over by the British of regions in the now Eastern Cape (image source).

The Masters and Servants Act No 15 was also passed in South Africa in 1856, the year Booker T. Washington was born. According to Simons and Simons (1969), this act was:

Designed to enforce discipline on ex-slaves, peasants, pastoralists, and a rural proletariat.

Source (click); * proletariat means “lower-classes” of society.

The Masters and Servants Act No 15 of 1856 was designed to end the freedom of movement of Khoe and San people. It was one of numerous legal tools developed by the British colonial government to put a stop to the hunter, gatherer and pastoral way of life of the /Xam and San peoples.

Amazingly, even though he was born in a slave hut when Khoe San were being alienated from land their ancestors roamed, Booker T. Washington delivered an institution of higher learning to African Americans. This is the Tuskegee Institute, originally known as the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute.

It is now known as Tuskegee University. This institution is based in the US state of Alabama.

Washington was critisised by some Africans for the institution’s initial technical focus. The criticism was justified at the time. However, it must be acknowledged that Washington was constrained by funders and government officials who oversaw all aspects of African development in his time. The following image highlights these relationships and includes Washington, colleagues and funders including Andrew Carnegie.

Image source > click.

Washington’s achievements have much significance for Khoe San African people in the Homeland. With fewer freedoms than we have now, he was able to initiate an institution of higher learning that remains his legacy. Many scholars and their families benefitted from his vision.

Right now, Tuskegee University offers B level, Masters and doctoral level degrees.

Southern Africa and Africa does not have enough institutions of higher learning. Booker T. Washington proves that the youth and future generations can create African institutions that provide people with necessary knowledge and skills. Hopefully, some of us here in the Homeland will take up his mantle…respect to those that are already doing the work.