‘[To Fanny Norton Smith Washington] Dear F. I send you a telegram today so you may know where to write. Write me at once. I shall probably stay here tillApril 1, when I shall come home. Had a fine a[nd] very large meeting here last night. Love to all. Kiss Portia for me. Yours. B.” -Booker T. Washington, March 22, 1884
Although Mr. Washington’s letters and other writings that reference significant historical personages are most often heralded, his domestic letters revealing his role as both husband and father are equally important. Fanny Norton Smith Washington was the founding Principal’s first wife, and their daughter Portia was born in 1883. While the aforementioned note containing but a simple communiqué informing Fanny of his plans and day in Philadelphia, his expression of love and, finally, a request to pass along a kiss to his year-old daughter is compelling, it was his desire to learn what was taking place in the homestead even as he was engaged in the significant work of advancing and developing Tuskegee Institute (University). For more often than not, the care and concern one has for family members and matters within the private sphere of home, reflects the care and concern one will have for one’s constituents and organization in the public sphere.
Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.