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 to the Hampton as an instructor. The institute's president, General Samuel Armstrong, became a mentor and father figure to Washington. Armstrong 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.
The school began as the State Normal School, later became the Tuskegee Institute. It began in an old shanty, with a leaking roof, in a church yard. And under Washington's leadership it grew to a campus of over 2,000 acres, with buildings of Greek and Roman architecture. Now it is the Tuskegee University, with doctorate programs and colleges of Agriculture, Engineering and Veterinary Medicine.
Throughout his career, Washington 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, in Atlanta, Georgia. 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."
This article from the 1906 edition of the New York Times discusses speakers B. T. Washington and Mark Twain together.