Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) was born into slavery and freed by the Civil War in 1865. He led the Tuskegee Institute, then a teachers’ college for African American students, and was the author of Up from Slavery (1901). An educator, orator and leader, he visited Skaneateles in 1914, speaking at the Presbyterian Church on a Saturday evening, June 13th.
A reporter for the Skaneateles Free Press (June 16, 1914) wrote:
“A large and appreciative audience, filling the Presbyterian church, had the special privilege of hearing Dr. Booker T. Washington last Saturday evening, as he told the story of his life and of his work at Tuskegee, Ala. He gave in striking contrast the story of himself as a boy in a Virginia cabin, hearing of opportunity for his education at Hampton-Sidney Institute; his long journey on foot, without means, to that school, sleeping under the board walk in Richmond, Va. … and then the humble starting and wonderful growth of the Tuskegee Institute from a little handful to 1,609 students. He pictured the his struggles with race prejudice, and with the ignorant prejudice of his own race. But for him the glory of life is to overcome obstacles, and to give himself to unselfish service for his fellow man… This lecture will long be remembered by all who were present.”
A collection was taken for the Tuskegee Institute, and $50 was raised from those in attendance. While in upstate New York, Washington also delivered an address at the unveiling of a Harriet Tubman Davis memorial in Auburn, attended a reception at the First M.E. Church in Auburn, and spoke in front of the Auburn Prison, where a scarlet fever quarantine made it impossible for him to speak inside.