Front page of the New York Times,
Monday, November 15, 1915:
DR. B.T. WASHINGTON,
NEGRO LEADER, DEAD
Founder of the Tuskegee
Expires of Hardening of
After Brief Illness
Seth Low and W.J. Willcox Persuaded Him to Consult
Specialists, Who Told Him He Was Doomed
Tuskegee, Ala., Nov. 14 - Booker T. Washington, foremost teacher and
leader of the negro race, died early today at his home here, near the
Tuskegee Institute, which he founded and of which he was President.
Hardening of the arteries, following a nervous breakdown, caused his death
four hours after Dr. Washington arrived from New York.
Although he had been in failing health for several months, the negro
leader's condition became serious only last week while he was in the east.
He then realized the end was near, but was determined to make the last
long trip South. He said often: "I was born in the South, have lived all
my life in the South, and expect to die and be buried in the South."
Accompanied by his wife, his secretary, and a physician, Dr. Washington
left New York for Tuskegee at 4 o'clock on Friday afternoon. He reached
home last midnight, and died at 4:40 o'clock this morning. His last public
appearance was at the national conference of Congregational churches in
New York, where he delivered a lecture on Oct. 25. The funeral will be
held at Tuskegee Institute on Wednesday morning at 10 o'clock.
Dr. Washington's Career
No one knows the day, nor even with certainty the year, of the birth of
Booker T. Washington; but the day of his death was announced by telegraph
and cable to many parts of the world.
He began life as "just another little nigger" on a plantation of a
family named Burrows (sic) in Hales Ford, Va. The month and year of his
birth were probably April, 1858, although Dr. Washington himself was not
sure of this. In the biographical paragraph under his name in "Who's Who
in America," it is said that he was born "about 1859." The only certain
fact is that he was born into slavery when negro mothers made no record of
nor long remembered the date of a child's birth.
Soon after the close of the civil war the little negro boy went with
his stepmother (sic) to Malden, West Va., where he worked in salt furnaces
for nine months in the year and attended school for three months. After
several years of such life the boy obtained work in the kitchen of Mrs.
Viola Ruffner, a New England woman who married a Southerner. Mrs. Ruffner
soon recognized the boy's eagerness and ability to advance himself, so she
taught him the elementary subjects. Booker Washington felt grateful to her
to the end of his life, because she really gave him his start.
He heard of the Hampton Institute, for negroes, in 1871, when he was
about thirteen years old, and he decided at once to attend it. So, with
the little money he had been able to save from his wages of $6 a week, he
set out for Richmond, Va., hoping to earn enough there to enable him to go
on to Hampton, which is near Norfolk. This was in 1871. Dr. Washington
founded the Tuskegee Institute just ten years later. He was admitted to
the institute and was graduated at the head of his class in 1875, after
working his way through the school.
After graduation Dr. Washington returned to Malden and taught school
until he had earned enough to enable him to go to the Wayland Seminary in
Washington, D.C., where he studied until 1879, when he was called to
Hampton as a teacher in the institute. After he had taught for two years,
in 1881 the State of Alabama voted to found an industrial institute for
negroes similar to that at Hampton, and, after searching for a negro to
head the proposed institution, Dr. Washington was selected. This was his
entrance into the "black belt" of the south, a chance which he had long
desired, and when he assumed charge of the institute at Tuskegee, Ala.,
his real life's work began.
The Start of Tuskegee
The State had appropriated $2,000 a year, and it was the task of the
negro to organize the school. How well he did this is shown by a
comparison of statistics. The institute opened on July 4, 1881, with one
teacher and thirty pupils. At that time it had neither land nor buildings,
nothing but the $2,000 a year granted by the Alabama Legislature.
When the institute celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary it owned
2,000 acres of land and eighty-three large and small buildings, which,
with its equipment of live stock (sic), stock in trade, and other personal
property, were valued at $831,895. This did not include 22,000 acres of
public land remaining, unsold from the 25,000 acres granted by the
Congress, valued at $135,000, nor the endowment fund, which was
$1,275,644. During the year there were more than 1,500 students enrolled
in the school, more than 1,000 young men and more than 500 young women.
The students were trained in thirty-seven industries.
It was on the opening day of the Atlanta Exposition in 1895 that Dr.
Washington became a national character. On that day he delivered an
address that was heard by thousands and read by other thousands in
far-away places with wonder that a man so wise and clear-seeing should
arise from among his people to lead them upward. For it was because Dr.
Washington stood out as a negro striving in a sensible and sincere
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DR. B.T. WASHINGTON,
NEGRO LEADER, DEAD
Continued from Page 1
way to help negroes that he commanded attention on that day in Atlanta.
His subject was "The New Negro," and white men saw in what he said a
sane hope for the negro race and a real solution of the vexing "negro
The character and difficulties of Dr. Washington's work are told in a
magazine article written by him. When elected to organize the Tuskegee
Institute, he traveled through the "black belt" in order to become
acquainted with the people whom he was to teach.
"In the plantation districts," he wrote later, "I have found large
families, including visitors when any appeared, living and sleeping in a
single room. I found them living on fat pork and corn bread, and yet not
infrequently I discovered in these cabins sewing machines which no one
knew how to use, which had cost as much as $60, or showy clocks which had
cost as much as $10 or $12, but which never told the time. I remember a
cabin where there was but one fork on the table for the use of five
members of the family and myself, while in the opposite corner was an
organ for which the family was paying $60 in monthly installments. The
truth that forced itself upon me was that these people needed not only
book learning, but knowledge of how to live; they needed to know how to
cultivate the soil, to husband their resources, to buy land, and build
houses, and make the most of their opportunities."
Men of Affairs Come to His Aid.
Word of his aims, advertised to the world in the Atlanta speech, spread
all over the country, and soon men and women of means began to want to
assist Dr. Washington. Chief among these was Andrew Carnegie, who began by
giving a $20,000 library to the institute, which he followed with a
regular contribution of $10,000 a year. The climax of Mr. Carnegie's
generosity toward the institute was reached in 1903, when he gave $600,000
to the endowment fund.
Among those who indorsed and supported Dr. Washington by act and speech
were Presidents McKinley, Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson; the officials of
many States, and the heads of many institutions of learning. Though he
never seemed to seek them, honors of all kinds were bestowed upon the
negro. The degree of M. A. was conferred upon him by Harvard (sic) in
1896, and LL.D. by Dartmouth in 1901. In 1910, when Dr. Washington was in
Europe, he was received by the King of Denmark, addressed the National
Liberal Club in London, and visited Mr. Carnegie in Skibo Castle.
Among those who gave the most effectual Assistance to Dr. Washington in
his work was Robert Curtis Ogden, who died in Maine on Aug. 6, 1913. Mr.
Ogden became interested in the negro educational work through his
association with General Samuel Chapman Armstrong, the founder of the
Hampton Institute, and as the President of the Southern Educational Board
he did much to overcome southern prejudice against the education of
negroes and spread the knowledge of Hampton and Tuskegee among both the
white and black people.
An incident of Dr. Washington's life that stirred up a controversy
throughout the country was the occasion of his dining at the White House
with President Roosevelt on Oct. 16, 1901. Dr. Washington went to the
White House at the invitation of the President, and, when the news was
spread abroad, thousands both North and South, who were moved by the race
prejudice or by a belief that social equality between blacks and whites
had been encouraged, became angry. Most of the criticism fell upon Colonel
Roosevelt, but the incident served also to injure Dr. Washington's work in
some parts of the South.
In addition to his work at Tuskegee and upon the lecture platform Dr.
Washington wrote a number of books and pamphlets upon the negro question.
Chief among his works were: "Sowing and Reaping," 1900; "Up from Slavery,"
1901; "Future of the American Negro," 1899; "Character Building," 1902;
"The Story of My Life and Work," 1903; "Working with Hands," 1904;
"Tuskegee and Its People," 1906; "Life of Frederick Douglass," 1907; "The
Negro in Business," 1907; "The Story of the Negro, 1909; "My Larger
Education," 1911, and "The Man Farthest Down," 1912.
Dr. Washington was married three times, and is survived by his third
wife, two sons, and a daughter.
COL. ROOSEVELT GRIEVED
Says One of the Most
Citizens of the Land Has
Oyster Bay, N.Y. Nov.14. - Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, when told of the
death of Booker T. Washington, said:
"I am deeply shocked and grieved at the death of Dr. Washington. He was
one of the distinguished citizens of the United States, a man who rendered
greater service to his race than had ever been rendered by any one else,
and who, in so doing, also rendered great service to the whole country. I
mourn his loss, and feel that one of the most useful citizens of our land
Julius Rosenwald of Chicago, an admirer of Booker T. Washington, who
aided him in his work by contributions to Tuskegee Institute, who has just
returned from Tuskegee and is at the Hotel St. Regis, commenting on the
educator's death last night said:
"In the death of Booker T. Washington this country has lost one of its
foremost educators. By emphasizing the dignity of labor he has rendered a
great service not only to his own race but to the white race as well. I
know no nobler character than he possessed. The injustices he was made to
suffer never embittered him. Those who knew him best were proudest of his
friendship. His life enriched not only this country but the entire world."
LEARNED HIS DOOM HERE
Dr. Washington taken, Dying, from Hospital To His
While Booker T. Washington was in New York about two weeks ago his
friends realized that something serious was causing the poor health which
he had suffered for some time. Accordingly Seth Low and William G.
Willcox, two of his warmest friends and supporters, insisted that he go to
Dr. W.A. Bastedo of 57 West Fifty-eight Street, for a diagnosis. Dr.
Bastedo found the patient suffering from Bright's disease, and he
astounded Mr. Low and Mr. Willcox by reporting to them that the length of
Dr. Washington's life was only a question of days.
Hoping still that Dr. Washington might be saved, his friends sent him
to the hospital of the Rockefeller Institute, where Dr. Lucas G. Cole made
another diagnosis. It agreed with that of Dr. Bastedo. On the advice of
the two surgeons, however, Dr. Washington was sent to St. Luke's Hospital
so that a desperate effort might be made to save his life. Mr. Willcox
obtained one of the best private rooms in the hospital for him and Dr.
Bastedo began treatment.
The case was hopeless, though, and soon Dr. Washington's wife was
notified. She came from Tuskegee with the patient's family physician, Dr.
John A. Kenney, a negro, and when she learned that there was no chance for
her husband to recover, she expressed the wish, in which he concurred,
that he might die at Tuskegee. He was taken from the hospital, therefore,
on Friday afternoon and put aboard the train which arrived in Tuskegee
late on Saturday night. His son, Ernest David Washington, who had been in
Vermont lecturing in the interest of the institute, passed through New
York last night on his way to the family home.
(Thanks to the National Park Service for preserving this obituary.)