There is a lot to be said about the virtues and life of Booker T. Washington (BTW). I'll take the time to share just a little of why he's a hero of mine.
He was born into slavery and became one of the most famous and influential people of his generation. Like the expression goes: The team at the top of the mountain didn't fall there, BTW didn't fall into great fame, influence or an enduring legacy of note.
Up From Slavery is Washington's autobiography which is well worth reading and reflecting upon. It's an enormously compelling story of ignorance, laziness and potential hatred turned wisdom, industry and benevolence.
Though there is almost no good place to start except the beginning, in regards to getting the real impact of BTW's story, let me give you the skinny on what kind of man he was.
After completely changing his life and becoming a teacher himself, he was recommended -even though not white, as a man capable of beginning, heading and providing for a new school in rural Alabama. Long story short -there was no school, there was no financing, there were some good people in his corner but that and an old chicken coop got him a few eggs and not much else.
He created an environment at this 'university' where rigor of learning and dignity in labor reigned. Leading an institution remotely in those days (which was difficult at best) Washington was also obligated to constantly be doing speeches in an attempt to sell people (potential donors) on the virtue of investing in the cause of a people and merit of his ideas for them.
The needs seemingly never ended and so Washington literally spent years walking all over the country from town to town giving speeches to hundreds and to nearly empty rooms. Day after day and night after night and year after year he put himself in places where he could influence change in the hearts and minds of two races.
Sometimes treated like royalty but often treated worse than a criminal, Washington carried on for decades changing society and lifting up a people through his example and extraordinary efforts, until his passing.
The Uncompromised Washington's life is an example of what is possible when we don't get caught up in dabbling, quibbling or too much rest. A life of endurance, awesome service to others, fulfillment in doing what he felt called to do -his legacy is secure.
Rest in peace, Mr. Washington.