Booker T. Washington spoke to Richmond ‘Chautauqua’


Booker T. Washington, the most influential African-American leader of his time, spoke in Richmond on August 27, 1914, admitting to a precocious error in judgment regarding white-skinned people.

Washington, the last of a generation of black American rulers born into slavery, was the primary voice for former slaves and their descendants who were oppressed due to discriminatory post-reconstruction laws in the South. As an orator, educator, and advisor to presidents, Washington was the dominant force in the African American community at a time when lynching of black men prevailed.

Washington spoke at a Chautauqua at Glen Miller. Four thousand people attended.

A Chautauqua was a popular movement of adult education classes and outdoor entertainment during the summers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

On August 27, 1914, in Richmond, Chautauqua introduced Dr. Washington, who professed, “I wanted to raise the Negro somehow, even though I had to do it at the expense of the Whites.” Thank God that narrow selfishness has been overcome, and my only ambition now is to serve all my comrades, whether black or white.

A Chautauqua was a late 19th and early 20th century venue where adult learning classes and entertainment were typically held outdoors during summers.  Glen Miller Park was a site of Chautauqua.

Washington was a wise political leader who advised not only presidents, but also members of Congress and governors. He shared the stage that day with prominent Richmond residents of all influence.

As Dr Washington gazed at the Sea of ​​Humanity, he said from the bottom of his heart, “I was born a slave and I did not even know the place or date of my birth. The big problem my mother faced after we were released was: what about the future? Dr Washington had come to believe that blacks received hands-on vocational training and had established the Tuskegee Institute to teach specific trades. That day in Richmond, he said, “When the American Negro catches up with the American white man, no one will be in front of us.”

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After the Chautauqua, Dr Washington was received at a banquet in his honor at the Westcott Hotel. During his stay, he lectured on the importance of frugality and industry; he said the only way the negro could save himself was “to be industrious, to save his money, and to develop a high Christian character.”

Washington believed so much that black people could benefit more from a practical and vocational education, that he had founded a school in an old abandoned church slum in Alabama, teaching specific trades such as carpentry, agriculture and mechanics. . It was the Tuskegee Institute, a model for industrial education and now a fully-fledged university of international distinction.

Nationally renowned Richmond business mogul E. Gurney Hill of Hill’s Roses was so impressed with the prominent African American leader’s words of integrity that he spoke to close friend Andrew Carnegie , splendid work done at Tuskegee.

Carnegie immediately donated $ 600,000 to the institution

Contact columnist Steve Martin at [email protected]

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