Booker T. Washington was a prominent African American intellectual and educator born into slavery in 1856.
He founded the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute and the National Negro Business League, advised Presidents Roosevelt and Taft and had a notable conflict with W.E.B. Du Bois over segregation.
Washington believed in self-improvement through labor and economic progress rather than forced desegregation, a view criticized by Du Bois and others as the “Atlanta Compromise.”
Despite public support for segregation, Washington secretly financed court cases against it and wrote coded letters to combat lynch mobs.
His legacy is complex and multifaceted, as his public views on segregation fell out of favor while his work in education helped many African Americans.
He died in 1915, leaving a significantly improved Tuskegee Institute.
Below are some of the most popular quotes by Booker T. Washington.
Best Booker T. Washington Quotes
We should not permit our grievances to overshadow our opportunities. ~ Booker T. Washington.
A race, like an individual, lifts itself up by lifting others up. ~ Booker T. Washington.
The highest test of the civilization of any race is in its willingness to extend a helping hand to the less fortunate. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others. ~ Booker T. Washington.
If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Never let your work drive you. Master it and keep it in complete control. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Ignorance is more costly to any State than education. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Start where you are with what you have, knowing that what you have is plenty enough. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Success waits patiently for anyone who has the determination and strength to seize it. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Progress, progress is the law of nature; under God it shall be our eternal guiding star. ~ Booker T. Washington.
You can’t hold a man down without staying down with him. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Famous Booker T. Washington Quotes
Political activity alone cannot make a man free. Back of the ballot, he must have property, industry, skill, economy, intelligence, and character. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Every persecuted individual and race should get much consolation out of the great human law, which is universal and eternal, that merit, no matter under what skin found, is, in the long run, recognized and rewarded. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Experience has taught me, in fact, that no man should be pitied because, every day in his life, he faces a hard, stubborn problem, but rather that it is the man who has no problem to solve, no hardships to face, who is to be pitied. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Do not do that which others can do as well. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Living is the art of loving. Loving is the art of caring. Caring is the art of sharing. Sharing is the art of living. If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Men may make laws to hinder and fetter the ballot, but men cannot make laws that will bind or retard the growth of manhood. ~ Booker T. Washington.
I have found that the happiest people are those who do the most for others; the most miserable are those who do the least. I have also found that few things, if any, are capable of making one so blind and narrow as race prejudice. ~ Booker T. Washington.
I believe that any man’s life will be filled with constant and unexpected encouragement, if he makes up his mind to do his level best each day, and as nearly as possible reaching the high-water mark of pure and useful living. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Dignify and glorify common labor. It is at the bottom of life that we must begin, not at the top. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Top Booker T. Washington Quotes
I pity from the bottom of my heart any individual who is so unfortunate as to get into the habit of holding race prejudice, for nothing else makes one so blind and narrow. ~ Booker T. Washington.
If I have done anything in life worth attention, I feel sure that I inherited the disposition from my mother. ~ Booker T. Washington.
In order to be successful in any kind of undertaking, I think the main thing is for one to grow to the point where he completely forgets himself; that is, to lose himself in a great cause. ~ Booker T. Washington.
No greater injury can be done to any youth than to let him feel that because he belongs to this or that race he will be advanced in life regardless of his own merits or efforts. ~ Booker T. Washington.
I learned the lesson that great men cultivate love, and that only little men cherish a spirit of hatred. I resolved then that I would permit no man, no matter what his color, to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Among a large class there seemed to be a dependence upon the Government for every conceivable thing. The members of this class had little ambition to create a position for themselves, but wanted the Federal officials to create one for them. ~ Booker T. Washington.
We must reinforce argument with results. ~ Booker T. Washington.
No man, who continues to add something to the material, intellectual and moral well-being of the place in which he lives, is left long without proper reward. ~ Booker T. Washington.
A lie doesn’t become truth, wrong doesn’t become right, and evil doesn’t become good, just because it’s accepted by a majority. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Popular Booker T. Washington Quotes
The world cares very little about what a man or woman knows; it is what the man or woman is able to do that counts. ~ Booker T. Washington.
No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem. ~ Booker T. Washington.
In my contact with people, I find that, as a rule, it is only the little, narrow people who live for themselves, who never read good books, who do not travel, who never open up their souls in a way to permit them to come into contact with other souls – with the great outside world. ~ Booker T. Washington.
I have gotten a large part of my education from actual contact with things, rather than through the medium of books. I like to touch things and handle them; I like to watch plants grow and observe the behavior of animals. ~ Booker T. Washington.
At the bottom of education, at the bottom of politics, even at the bottom of religion, there must be for our race economic independence. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Educated men and women, especially those who are in college, very often get the idea that religion is fit only for the common people. No young man or woman can make a greater error than this… ~ Booker T. Washington.
It is important and right that all privileges of the law be ours, but it is vastly more important that we be prepared for the exercise of those privileges. ~ Booker T. Washington.
I was born a slave on a plantation in Franklin County, Virginia. I am not quite sure of the exact place or exact date of my birth, but at any rate I suspect I must have been born somewhere and at some time. ~ Booker T. Washington.
I think I have learned that the best way to lift one’s self up is to help someone else. ~ Booker T. Washington.
The longer I live and the more experience I have of the world, the more I am convinced that, after all, the one thing that is most worth living for-and dying for, if need be-is the opportunity of making someone else more happy. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Great Booker T. Washington Quotes
You measure the size of the accomplishment by the obstacles you have to overcome to reach your goals. ~ Booker T. Washington.
I have learned that 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 while trying to succeed. ~ Booker T. Washington.
I have begun everything with the idea that I could succeed, and I never had much patience with the multitudes of people who are always ready to explain why one cannot succeed. ~ Booker T. Washington.
We must not only become reliable, progressive, skillful and intelligent, but we must keep the idea constantly before our youths that all forms of labor, whether with the hand or head, are honorable. ~ Booker T. Washington.
I let no man drag me down so low as to make me hate him. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Those who have accomplished the greatest results are those who never grow excited or lose self-control, but are always calm, self-possessed, patient, and polite. ~ Booker T. Washington.
The older I grow, the more I am convinced that there is no education which one can get from books and costly apparatus that is equal to that which can be gotten from contact with great men and women. ~ Booker T. Washington.
The world cares little about what a man knows;it cares more about what a man is able to do. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Lay hold of something that will help you, and then use it to help somebody else. ~ Booker T. Washington.
The wisest among my race understand that agitations of social equality is the extremist folly, and that progress in the enjoyment of all privileges that will come to us must be the result of severe and constant struggle rather than of artificial forcing. ~ Booker T. Washington.
I pity from the bottom of my heart any nation or body of people that is so unfortunate as to get entangled in the net of slavery. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Wise Booker T. Washington Quotes
There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up. ~ Booker T. Washington.
We do not want the men of another color for our brothers-in-law, but we do want them for our brothers. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Opportunities never come a second time, nor do they wait for our leisure. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Every person who has grown to any degree of usefulness, every person who has grown to distinction, almost without exception has been a person who has risen by overcoming obstacles, by removing difficulties, by resolving that when he met discouragement he would not give up. ~ Booker T. Washington.
I shall never permit myself to stoop so low as to hate any man. ~ Booker T. Washington.
I believe that one always does himself and his audience an injustice when he speaks merely for the sake of speaking. I do not believe that one should speak unless, deep down in his heart, he feels convinced that he has a message to deliver. ~ Booker T. Washington.
No race that has anything to contribute to the markets of the world is long in any degree ostracized. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Holding a grudge does not hurt the person against whom the grudge is held, it hurts the one who holds it. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Remember that everyone’s life is measured by the power that individual has to make the world better-this is all life is. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Powerful Booker T. Washington Quotes
Education is not a thing apart from life – “not a system,” nor a philosophy; it is direct teaching how to live and how to work. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Mere connection with what is known as a superior race will not permanently carry an individual forward unless the individual has worth. ~ Booker T. Washington.
In order to be successful in any undertaking, I think the main thing is for one to grow to the point where he completely forgets himself; that is, to lose himself in a great cause. In proportion as one loses himself in this way, in the same degree does he get the highest happiness out of his work. ~ Booker T. Washington.
There is no defense or security for any of us except in the highest intelligence and development of all. ~ Booker T. Washington.
We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary. ~ Booker T. Washington.
The circumstances that surround a man’s life are not important. How that man responds to those circumstances IS IMPORTANT. His response is the ultimate determining factor between success and failure. ~ Booker T. Washington.
The thing to do when one feels sure that he has said or done the right thing and is condemned, is to stand still and keep quiet. If he is right, time will show it. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Character is power. ~ Booker T. Washington.
You must understand the troubles of that man farthest down before you can help him. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Character, not circumstances, makes the man. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Inspiring Booker T. Washington Quotes
Success in life is founded upon attention to the small things rather than to the large things; to the everyday things nearest to us rather than to the things that are remote and uncommon. ~ Booker T. Washington.
The man who has learned to do something better than anyone else, has learned to do a common thing in an uncommon manner, is the man who has a power and influence that no adverse circumstances can take from him. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Egotism is the anesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity. ~ Booker T. Washington.
I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him. ~ Booker T. Washington.
If you can’t read, it’s going to be hard to realize dreams. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Great men cultivate love and only little men cherish a spirit of hatred; assistance given to the weak makes the one who gives it strong; oppression of the unfortunate makes one weak. ~ Booker T. Washington.
It means a great deal, I think, to start off on a foundation which one has made for oneself. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way. ~ Booker T. Washington.
We shall prosper as we learn to do the common things of life in an uncommon way. Let down your buckets where you are. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Success always leaves footprints. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Never get to the point where you will be ashamed to ask anybody for information. The ignorant man will always be ignorant if he fears that by asking another for information he will display ignorance. Better once display your ignorance of a certain subject than always know nothing of it. ~ Booker T. Washington.
There is no escape – man drags man down, or man lifts man up. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Associate yourself with people of good quality, for it is better to be alone than to be in bad company. ~ Booker T. Washington.
An inch of progress is worth a yard of complaint. ~ Booker T. Washington.
You go to school, you study about the Germans and the French, but not about your own race. I hope the time will come when you study black history too. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work. ~ Booker T. Washington.
Inspirational Booker T. Washington Quotes
In the long run, the world is going to have the best, and any difference in race, religion, or previous history will not keep the world from what it wants. ~ Booker T. Washington.
You may fill your heads with knowledge or skillfully train your hands, but unless it is based upon high, upright character, upon a true heart, it will amount to nothing. You will be no better than the most ignorant. ~ Booker T. Washington.
It often requires more courage to suffer in silence than to rebel, more courage not to strike back than to retaliate, more courage to be silent than to speak. ~ Booker T. Washington.
The individual who can do something that the world wants done will, in the end, make his way regardless of his race. ~ Booker T. Washington.
In all things social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress. ~ Booker T. Washington.
I am learning more and more each year that all worry simply consumes, and to no purpose, just so much physical and mental strength that might otherwise be given to effective work. ~ Booker T. Washington.
There is no power on earth that can neutralize the influence of a high, simple and useful life. ~ Booker T. Washington.
So these were the 97 top Booker T. Washington quotes and sayings about on education, race, slavery, segregation, freedom, truth and success.