100 years since Booker T. Washington’s historic visit to the Mormons

Prominent educator, author, speaker visited Salt Lake 100 years ago

Published: Friday, March 29 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

Coleman said that Calvary Baptist planned to charge congregants in order to provide the speaker with some remuneration, but Washington declined, saying he welcomed contributions to Tusgekee, but didn’t want anyone to have to pay to hear him speak.


Darius Gray, former president of the Genesis Group — an organization within the LDS Church that supports members of African descent — said Washington's visit unfortunately has been forgotten.

“I don’t know that there’s a legacy (among black Mormons),” said Gray, when asked.

“Whether it’s the 100th anniversary or the 300th anniversary, the African-Americans will not know it, the Anglo Americans, the Hispanic Americans will not know it because we have not taught it.”

Coleman concurred. “I don’t know that very many people think about Booker T. Washington today, (even) in the general African-American community."

Gray appreciates any effort made to remember Washington and the many others whose influence on history have been neglected.

“A society teaches that which it values," he said.

Books and covers

Coleman believes there’s an age-old lesson to take from Washington’s visit. He referred to the distinguished educator's account in the New York Age, where he said:

“I have learned by experience and observation that it is never safe to pass final judgment upon a people until one has had an opportunity to get into the real life of these people ….

“I have learned, too, that no person outside a race or outside a group of people can ever really ever know that race or that group of people until he gets into their homes and has a chance to observe their men and women and their children, has a chance to partake of their hospitality and get into their inner life.”

Coleman said that people sometimes make remarks based on what they’ve read or heard or seen from a distance, and that may or may not be accurate.

“We often come to the table with preconceived notions of what this person or this group represents. Maybe the best thing is not to judge a book by its cover, but come to know the content.”

email: dward@desnews.com

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