Booker T. Washington’s birthplace is just five miles from Smith Mountain Lake in Franklin County. He was born a slave on the James Burroughs’ plantation on April 5, 1856. His mother was a cook and Booker T. lived in the farm’s one-room kitchen throughout the Civil War. Following the war, he graduated from the Hampton Institute and became an instructor. Because of his achievements as an educator, he was selected to establish a normal school for blacks in Alabama. In 1881, Booker T. Washington became the first principal of this school which became the Tuskegee Institute. Even though he traveled extensively, and became known as one of the most influential people of the late 19th and 20th century, Booker T. Washington remained principal of Tuskegee Institute until his death on November 14, 1915.
Washington returned to his birthplace in 1908, sat on the porch of the Burroughs House, and spoke to a crowd of both races. Before leaving, he walked to the Burroughs Family Cemetery and laid a rose on the grave of his former owner. At the cemetery Washington proclaimed, “Preserve the old kindly relations, if they are lost they can never be replaced.”
A historic marker stands near the entrance to the Booker T. WashingtonNational Monument onRoute 122. The park is open 7 days a week, year-round, from 9-5PM and uses buildings, gardens, crafts, and animals to interpret the life and achievements of Booker T. Washington. Call (540) 721-2094 for more details.