Saturday, April 7

Stamp of approval

Booker Taliaferro Washington (April 5, 1856 – Nov. 14, 1915) was an African-American educator, author, orator, advisor, and political leader.

Washington rose from slavery to a position of power and influence. A realist and a man of action, he became one of the most important African-American leaders of his time. He was committed to improving the lives of African-Americans after the Civil War.

Representative of the last generation of black American leaders born in slavery, he spoke on behalf of the large majority of blacks who lived in the South but had lost their ability to vote through Jim Crow Laws.

Washington advocated economic independence through self-help, hard work, and a practical education. His drive and vision built the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama into a major African-American presence and place of learning.

Washington maintained power because of his ability to gain support of numerous groups: influential whites; the black business, educational and religious communities nationwide; financial donations from philanthropists, and his accommodation to the political realities of the age of Jim Crow segregation.

On April 7, 1940, Washington became the first African American to be depicted on a United States postage stamp. Several years later, he was honored on the first coin to feature an African American, the Booker T. Washington Memorial Half Dollar, which was minted by the United States from 1946 to 1951. He was also depicted on a U.S. Half Dollar from 1951–1954.

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