It is not hyperbole to say that Booker T. Washington was a great American. For 20 years before his death, he had been the most useful, as well as the most distinguished, member of his race in the world, and one of the most useful, as well as one of the most distinguished, of American citizens of any race.
Eminent though his services were to the people of his own color, the White men of our Republic were almost as much indebted to him, both directly and indirectly.
They were indebted to him directly, because of the work he did on behalf of industrial education for the Negro, thus giving impetus to the work for the industrial education of the White man, which is, at least, as necessary; and, moreover, every successful effort to turn the thoughts of the natural leaders of the Negro race into the fields of business endeavor, of agricultural effort, of every species of success in private life, is not only to their advantage but to the advantage of the White man, as tending to remove the friction and trouble that inevitably come throughout the South at this time in any Negro district where the Negroes turn for their advancement primarily to political life
The indirect indebtedness of the White race to Booker T. Washington is due to the simple fact that here in America we are all, in the end, going up or down together; and therefore, in the long run, the man who makes a substantial contribution toward uplifting any part of the community has helped to uplift all of the community. Wherever in our land the Negro remains uneducated, and liable to criminal suggestion, it is absolutely certain that the Whites will themselves tend to tread the paths of barbarism; and wherever we find people of color as a whole engaged in successful work to better themselves, and respecting both themselves and others, there we shall also find the tone of the White community high.