Personal and Private
Dear Sir: I am not active in politics and do not expect to be, and have no claim upon your time or attention. I simply write to assure you that I am doing in a rather quiet way whatever I can in connection with our mutual friend, Mr. Clarkson, to bring about your nomination for the presidency at St. Louis Convention […]. “April 10, 1896,” Booker T. Washington
Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson
Booker T. Washington possessed many detractors who railed against the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University for not being “active in politics.” In spite of this, we repeatedly find in his letters and correspondence that he was simply not “active” in the precise manner at the precise time that persons wanted him to be. Such was the case in his communication to William Boyd Allison. Although Mr. Washington was not loud, boisterous nor public in communicating the whole of his ideas and activities, he moved “in a rather quiet way” as demonstrated in this letter marked “personal and private.” Unlike those without such responsibilities, many leaders of large and vast organizations like Booker T. Washington are not at liberty to publicly communicate all of their opinions or activities directed towards particular ends. Whether in the 19th century where leaders communicated through pen and paper or in the 21st century where men and women communicate via email or social media, you will rarely find the most effective leaders revealing the whole of their minds and the whole of their undertakings upon a matter. (The weightier their position, the weightier their word.) It is a small and insignificant thing for a person who possesses no public reputation or great authority to offer opinion on highly charged political matters. Yet for a man in Booker T. Washington’s position, every move and word was scrutinized because of the eminence of his role and institution. For some 34 years, he was not simply Booker Washington; He was Booker Washington, principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University. As such, prudence dictated that he move “in a rather quiet way” on a great majority of matters for a great majority of his 34 years at the helm of Tuskegee (Institute) University.
Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.