Booker T. Washington was one of the most important figures in the campaign for racial equality in the U.S.A. He believed in co-operation rather than ... Show synopsis Booker T. Washington was one of the most important figures in the campaign for racial equality in the U.S.A. He believed in co-operation rather than confrontation and his Atlanta Compromise address in 1895 is regarded as one of the most important speeches in American history. Born into slavery in Virginia, Washington was freed at the age of nine and worked as a salt packer, in a coal mine, on a steamboat and in domestic service before training as a teacher.Because of his energy and vision he was appointed as the first president of what is now Tuskegee University in Alabama, a position which gave him the status to expound his view that black Americans could achieve equality by demonstrating their patience, industry, thrift, reliability and social usefulness. This approach won him friends in high places, including Carnegie, Rockefeller and Taft and he was the first African American to be invited to the White House, as a guest of Theodore Roosevelt. "Up from Slavery" is a fascinating account of his life and work in his own words.