Booker Talifero (T.) Washington (April 5, 1856 - November 15, 1915) was an African-American educator born into slavery in Piedmont, Virginia. After the American Civil War, when the Emancipation Proclamation was enforced, he worked with his mother Jane as a salt-packer in a West Virginia facility, and, when he could, attended school. At 16, he entered the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Virginia, a school intended to train black teachers.
Active in politics, he was routinely consulted by Congressmen and Presidents about the appointment of blacks to political positions. He worked and socialized with many white politicians and notables. He argued that self-reliance was the key to improved conditions for blacks in the US. However, for his advice to blacks to "compromise" and accept segregation, other black activists of the time, such as W. E. B. DuBois, labeled him an "accomodator".
His autobiography, Up from Slavery, published in 1901, was a bestseller. He was also the first African-American ever invited to the White House as the guest of a President--which led to a scandal for the President who did the inviting, Theodore Roosevelt.
"Think about it: We went into slavery pagans; we came out Christians. We went into slavery pieces of property; we came out American citizens. We went into slavery with chains clanking about our wrists; we came out with the American ballot in our hands... Notwithstanding the cruelty and moral wrong of slavery, we are in a stronger and more hopeful condition, materially, intellectually, morally, and religiously, than is true of an equal number of black people in any other portion of the globe." - from Up From Slavery
For his contributions to American society, Booker T. Washington was granted honorary degrees from Harvard University and Dartmouth College and on April 5, 1956, the house where he was born was created a United States National Monument. On April 7, 1940, Booker T. Washington became the first African American to be depicted on a United States postage stamp.
See also: Slave narrative