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Booker T. Washington Signed Typescript

Booker Taliaferro Washington (American, 1856-1915)
Gift of Mrs. James H. Means, 1986

An influential African American educator and race leader, Booker T. Washington rarely voiced public support of voting rights for African Americans. In 1908, Washington published an editorial piece in the New York Times ("Booker T. Washington questions the benefit to women," December 20, 1908), in which he voiced temperate opposition to women's suffrage. In this undated letter to an unidentified recipient, Washington indicates his support for women’s right to vote, but urges the importance of staying focused on more fundamental aspects of gender and race equality.

Booker T. Washington Signed Typescript

The full text of the letter:

“In answer to your question, I would state that while I believe in women's suffrage and have expressed myself so, I take the same position in regard to it that I do regarding the ballot for my own race. My experience teaches me that so long as my race placed emphasis upon the ballot to the exclusion of fundamental matters connected with the growth of the race, they did not make the progress that they are making at the present time. In a word, I believe it is a mistake for any people or group of people to agitate the use of the ballot to the exclusion of giving attention to other more fundamental things, but this statement should not be taken to mean that I believe the Negro should not have the same consideration in the use of the ballot as other races and groups of people have when they meet the requirements.”