Booker T. Washington: The Wizard of Tuskegee 1901-1915

By Louis R. Harlan | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 5
Family Matters

God setteth the solitary in families. . . .
PSALM 68:6

BOOKER T. Washington in his prime had a tremendously active public life, which went with his role as the most famous Negro in the world. He also had a multichambered secret life, full of spies, whispered confidences, false datelines, and "personal and confidential" correspondence. But he never had much of a private life. Living his adult life far away from the places of his birth and youth, he maintained close touch with only one friend of his youth, Dr. Samuel E. Courtney of Boston. His co-workers all called him Mister or Doctor. Even his third wife, Margaret, had a hard time saying his first name, and so virtually the only persons who used it were his former teachers at Hampton Institute and some of his enemies. Just as in his youth he had never had leisure and knew no childish games, in his adulthood he was too busy meeting the demands of public life to have time for a private life. The only exception was his family, and particularly his three motherless children on whom he and their stepmother lavished care and warmth, in spite of the press of his public affairs and her duties as head of Women's Industries at Tuskegee Institute.

Washington's relationship with Margaret presents the student of his life with a mystery because, for one reason or another, there is no intimate correspondence with her, or with his earlier wives, for that

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