Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) was an African-American educator, writer, orator, and prominent leader of the African-American community. Washington grew up a slave on a plantation in Virginia, deprived of the opportunity to attend school. After gaining freedom, Washington dedicated himself to academics. He attended the Hampton Normal & Agricultural Institute, earning high marks. Shortly after graduating, he returned the Hampton as an instructor. The institute's president admired Washington's hard work and recommended him to become the head of a new vocational school in Tuskegee, Alabama. Washington, at the age of 25, accepted the position and remained there for the rest of his life. Throughout his career, he built an interracial national network of educators, businessmen, religious leaders, and politicians who supported his conservative approach to the quest for racial equality.
On 18 September 1895, Booker T. Washington delivered his "Atlanta Address" at the Cotton States and International Exposition. Before an audience comprised mostly of whites, Washington urged full cooperation between the two races, noting that "in all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress."_CITATION_UUID_68F95F26391E45298B68B387D5334EDE_