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During the month of February, we honor notable African Americans. Today, I want to talk about Booker T. Washington and the concept of striving. Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) was born into slavery and rose to become a leading African American intellectual of the 19th century. He was one of the founders of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, renamed Tuskegee University in 1881. He also founded, the National Negro Business League.
After the civil war, his family relocated to Malden, West Virginia. His mother later remarried and then took on the last name of his stepfather. Booker had to work and was only allowed to go to school after his morning shift.
He learned about the Hampton Institute, a school for former slaves, and would walk 500 miles to Hampton, where he excelled. He went on to study at Wayland Seminary in Washington, D.C., but after impressing Brigadier General Samuel Chapman, he was invited to return to Hampton as a teacher in 1879.
Booker would go on to be an advisor to multiple U.S. Presidents, and was a dominant leader in the African American community and of the contemporary black elite. Booker became the leading voice of the former slaves and their descendants who were oppressed in the South by disenfranchisement and the Jim Crow discriminatory laws.
Booker’s life was not without challenges. He found himself at odds with other negro leaders, over the issue of racial equality for African Americans. He called for black progress through education and entrepreneurship, while others sought to fight the laws of Jim Crow directly. He remained a leader and figurehead at Tuskegee University until his death.
Booker’s story is important, because he shows us that we must all strive to survive. And we must also strive to thrive. Life is not easy, it is filled with challenges, failures and setbacks. In most cases, only those who are determined to press through the challenges and setbacks overcome their adversity.
Many people created dreams and visions for 2020 and may have already given up because of a challenge or a setback. However, in order to achieve your dreams, you must push through the adversity and get to the other side. Nothing that is worth something comes easy. It is when you are challenged the most, that you must push the hardest.
Remember this quote by Booker T. Washington. “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life, as by the obstacles which he has overcome.”
Strive to survive and strive to thrive in 2020.
Dr. Regina Banks-Hall