The Booker T. Washington National Monument commemorates the birthplace of this noted educator, orator, author, and advisor to presidents. The enslaved Washington lived with his mother, brother, and sister in a cabin on the Burroughs' mid-nineteenth century plantation from his birth in 1856 until he was emancipated at the end of the Civil War in 1865. Washington's recollections of the plantation are recounted in his autobiography, "Up From Slavery" (1901). After emancipation he moved to West Virginia to work in the salt furnaces and coal mines. He attended Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (now Hampton University) and attended college at Wayland Seminary (now Virginia Union University). He returned to Hampton as a teacher. In 1881, he founded the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama, basing its educational philosophy on the Hampton model in Virginia.
Washington became a prominent spokesman for industrial education for African Americans. For some this approach demonstrated political adroitness, while for others he was seen as an accommodationist, focusing on an ethic of work without advancing the liberal arts. Symptomatic of this approach was his talk at the Cotton States Exposition in 1895, referred to as "The Atlanta Compromise Address." In this speech, Washington offered black acquiescence in disfranchisement and social segregation if whites would encourage black progress in economic and educational opportunities. Black and white groups opposed this approach, including the Niagara Movement (1905-09) and the NAACP (1909-). Critics such as W.E.B. Du Bois opposed Washington's "Tuskegee Machine" and fought for the further advancement of civil rights. Washington disagreed and argued that cooperating with supportive whites was the best solution to overcoming racism.
In 1908, Washington visited the plantation where he had spent nine years as a slave. The site focuses on Washington's rise from slavery to become an influential figure in American history.
The site was added to the Virginia Landmarks Register on January 16, 1973 and the National Monument was established on June 18, 1957.
The Booker T. Washington birthplace includes the 207-acre mid-nineteenth century tobacco plantation where Washington was born into slavery on April 5, 1856. Part of the National Park system, the site offers a 15 minute orientation video and exhibits about Booker T. Washington's life. A quarter mile trail leads to the historic area where a reconstructed cabin represents the place where Booker T. Washington was born.
Geographical and Contact Information
12130 Booker T. Washington Highway