|Of the major philanthropists who took
pride in being associated with Booker T. Washington, Julius Rosenwald, the builder of
Sears, Roebuck, made the greatest financial contribution to Black education through
spending several million dollars stimulating the construction of over 5,000 school
buildings for predominantly Black communities.
It should be noted, by way of contrast, that in 1906 Carnegie set up his Foundation for
the Improvement of Teaching with $10,000,000 mainly for white institutions, and that
between 1886 and 1910 Rockefeller gave a total of $35,000,000 to the University of
The small sums of money received by Booker T. Washington converted his fame into what became known as the "Tuskegee Machine," a loose alliance of individuals and organizations under his supervision. Washington's words could elevate or destroy; he used his financial clout with authority. Black public opposition to his philosophy of race strategy was extremely risky. For nearly a decade, Booker T. Washington was the one recognized spokesperson for Black America. He was the authority on Black aspirations; he was often consulted about prospective white political appointees. He either set up or funded major conferences on Black agricultural education, and Black business enterprises. He attempted to control Black public discussion of his philosophy of race relations, especially in the Afro-American press. Able to "live large" at Tuskegee, Washington bought two summer homes, one in Weymouth, Massachusetts and another on Long Island, New York, the latter to be closer to many of his multimillionaire benefactors, many of whom moved to New York as the place to be, regardless of the location of their fountains of cash. Having America's financial power elite visit Tuskegee and having dinner with President Theodore Roosevelt in the White House were indeed measures of the distance Booker T. Washington travelled from coal and salt mining in Malden, West Virginia. At the turn of the century, however, the increasingly virulent racism, which Washington's theory of politics and merit complimented, was soon to engulf his reputation and shove him from the center of the Black freedom struggle.