Booker T. Washington National Monument

Booker T. Washington National Monument houses a replica of the former home of famous black educator, philosopher, and civil rights leader Booker T. Washington. Washington was born a slave on a farm in Virginia in 1856. His mother, a cook, was owned by the Burroughs family. Many years later, in his autobiography, Up From Slavery, Washington remembered his childhood: "The early years of my life, which were spent in the little cabin, were not very different from those of thousands of other slaves."

Booker T. Washington National Memorial
©National Park Service
The Booker T. Washington National Monument includes a
replica of the cabin in which Washington was born.

Booker T. Washington National Monument contains a replica of the little kitchen cabin in which Washington was born. "The cabin was without glass windows," he wrote. "It had only openings in the side which let in the light and also the cold, chilly air of winter." Washington and his sisters slept on the dirt floor bundled in rags. The interior has been re-created to appear as Washington described it in his book.

Other buildings on the reconstructed 207-acre farm include the smokehouse, blacksmith shed, tobacco barn, and horse barn. The site of the Burroughs' house is outlined in stone.

As a boy, Washington learned about news of the outside world by listening in on Burroughs family conversations as he fanned flies from their dinner table. Washington longed to attend school, but it was illegal to educate slaves. "I had the feeling that to get into a schoolhouse and study would be about the same as getting into paradise," he wrote. When he was nine, the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves, and his family moved to West Virginia. At 16, he walked 400 miles back to Virginia to enroll in a new black school where students could pay their way by working. He went on to found the Tuskegee Institute in 1881 and became the country's leading black educator.

Booker T. Washington National Monument Information

Address: 12130 Booker T. Washington Hghwy., Hardy, VA
Telephone: 504/721-2094
Hours of Operation: Open daily 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day
Admission: Free

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Eric Peterson is a Denver-based author who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.