January 16, 1900: Booker T. Washington speaks at Duluth’s First Methodist Church 

On this day in Duluth in 1900, educator, author, and orator Booker T. Washington spoke at Duluth’s First Methodist Church. His speech was entitled “The Negro Problem of the South.” The Duluth News Tribune called Washington “The most useful man in the South today, from the South’s own side of the question” because he “seeks to teach industry and thrift to his own people.” Washington, the first president of Alabama’s Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, know today as the Tuskegee Institute, focused his speech on training people of color for industrial jobs as the social to the nation’s great race problem—but that it wasn’t the colored race’s responsibility alone. He told his predominantly white audience “In order  to relieve that burden it is as much to your interests to assist in making the negro skilled and useful, and raising him to a higher level, as to the negro himself. “ Much of what Washington had to say in Duluth today might sounds politically incorrect to our ears today, nearly 120 years later. You can read selections from the speech reprinted by the News Tribune here: Washington,BT_1.171900_DNT

Booker T. Washington. (Image: Public Domain)