Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) was born into slavery and rose to become a leading African American intellectual of the 19 century, founding Tuskegee University in 1881 and the National Negro Business League two decades later. Booker believed that solutions to the problem of racial discrimination were primarily economic and that African American entrepreneurship was vital. Thus, he founded the league to further the economic development of African American businesses in order to achieve social equality in American society.
Washington advised Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. His infamous conflicts with black leaders like W. E. B. Du Bois over segregation caused a stir, but today, he is remembered as the most influential African American speaker of his time.
"The wisest of my race understand that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremest folly and that progress in the enjoyment of all the privileges that will come to us must be the result of severe and constant struggle rather than artificial forcing."