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

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

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  • coltakashi Richland, WA
    April 2, 2013 8:41 a.m.

    The importance of the Tuskegee Institute and other black colleges in growing a leadership cadre for black Americans during a century when they were not admitted on an equal basis to other universities hould be remembered. In the US Air Force, the association of black officers is called the Tuskegee Airmen in tribute to the heroic fighter pilots from that school who escorted bombers over German territory during World War II, a story recently made into a movie by George Lucas. Like the Japanese Americans in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the Tuskegee Airmen fought racial prejudice by demonstrating their bravery and patriotism as Americans was the equal of any descendant of Europeans. Washington fought racism by demonstrating the reality of the intelligence and moral fiber of African Americans through real accomplishment.

  • samhill Salt Lake City, UT
    April 1, 2013 11:22 a.m.

    "Ronald Coleman, associate professor of history and ethnic studies at the University of Utah...., said, 'I don’t know that very many people think about Booker T. Washington today, (even) in the general African-American community.'"


    Very interesting story and not entirely surprising, to me at least.

    I well remember learning about Booker T. Washington and the Tuskegee Institute, along with George Washington Carver and his biological research on uses for peanuts, among other things. That was in the mid 50's and was just another part of the history lessons we were taught along side stories of the Alamo, the Pilgrims and the country's founding, etc.

    I realize that "history" continues to be made and accumulates over time, necessitating the prioritization of what is taught and what is not. However, I think the importance of teaching history is mostly due to what we can learn from the best and most ennobling parts of our past.

    Surely Booker T. Washington and his work to advance mankind should remain part of our national inheritance.

  • AllBlack San Diego, CA
    April 1, 2013 11:11 a.m.

    "not look inwardly more intently at their racist beliefs and doctrine / policy / "direct commandment from God"

    It seems that the silent majority in Utah was more accepting of blacks than the leadership was willing to accept, or that today's liberal media is willing to acknowledge.

    Now maybe this policy did come from God who -possibly on social grounds- wanted a homogeneous society for the church to grow out of, like he did with the Jews back in the day...however it is only speculation to second guess why it was in place. Without a scripture reference or new revelation we simply don't know the why.

    But the conclusions are that yes, church leadership did not want Africans -including Egyptians, Algerians, Libyans & so on who are Mediterranean race and not Black- leading and blessing the people but the majority of members didn't seem to mind having a black person lead them or teach them....

  • John Pack Lambert of Michigan Ypsilanti, MI
    April 1, 2013 10:50 a.m.

    It is easy to criticise Washington's views. However in many ways training people in trades that they can be gainfully employed in is an improvement over unskilled labor. Also, he did have a point about the difficulty as doctors, lawyers etc. It is arguably better to be an employed plumber than an unemployed lawyer. While technical education can at times hold people back from their full potential, it is clearly better than no education. It is better to make some improvement than none.

  • SME Bountiful, UT
    April 1, 2013 7:02 a.m.

    Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois represent two very different very different beliefs as to the best path for African American progress. It could be argued that the difference was/is one of substance vs style or symbolic victories vs improvements in actual lives.

  • Mister J Salt Lake City, UT
    March 31, 2013 5:08 p.m.

    @ lost in DC 3/29 11:11 a

    Like Compassionate Conservative? or Practical Republican?

  • DesertBrat60 Indio, CA
    March 30, 2013 4:41 p.m.

    A wonderful piece of Utah history. Thanks for sharing!

  • william e. kettley SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    March 30, 2013 1:46 p.m.

    I was highly interested in the Booker T. Washington article. My interest began as a Boy Scout, collecting stamps toward the coveted Eagle Scout Award. Washington was featured on one of them, so I came to know of his history in America with his work at Tuskegee Institute with both social effort and his advances with the common peanut. His treatment in being housed in a lessor hotel than the famous Hotel Utah was common for his day, and I'm grateful all of us are considered more equal today. David Ward did an excellent journalistic effort in producing this piece, and it holds much detail we can learn from today in the equality of man. Great job David Ward ! Keep up the good work . . .William Kettley

  • sharrona layton, UT
    March 30, 2013 7:58 a.m.

    @Race relations, For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, the same Lord is Lord of All and richly blesses All who call on him, for, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be Saved(Roman 10: 12).

    RE: Twin Lights l, Tanner and Romney were sharp men . True but did they read *Greek?
    “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations=(*ethnos) baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost “(Mt 28:19) *ethnicity, All people. Check History of Church, Volume 5, pages 218-219.

  • the truth Holladay, UT
    March 29, 2013 8:00 p.m.

    @LDS Liberal

    I agree with choice your of definition for "progressive" that Booker T. Washington intended.

    But "progressive" today, in the political sense, means big government, big government solutions, and big government control, dependence on big government.

    The Mormons certainly did not want that, their views and doctrines are quite the opposite.

    That is where the confusion lies.

  • SammyB Provo, UT
    March 29, 2013 7:27 p.m.

    To understand what the word progressive meant during Washington's day, you have to look at a dictionary from that period. I often do that kind of thing and it is enlightening in understanding history.

    As far as Booker's method of handling racism, he believed that it couldn't happen over night and ground work had to be laid. With more economic success, then blacks could then move social issues in a peaceful, respectful manner. Maybe it was too slow but the idea has merit.

    If it had worked, maybe there would be better race relations because as things stand now, I'm afraid we have lost some ground in certain areas since Dr. King's great leadership. Hate between races is growing even if laws give a lot of protection. We need to try to catch up with the laws in our attitudes toward one another.

    March 29, 2013 4:29 p.m.

    "...none of them conform to the one that you have postulated..."

    I suppose that's primarily because I didn't postulate a definition of the term "progressive" - I described the "progressive" utopia to illustrate the fact that there is nothing progressive about the so-called progressive movement. What the progressive movement seeks is what mired the world in the Dark Ages. It is not new , better, or progressive.

    By all means, let's find new and better ways of living. But let's remember history, particularly the bad stuff, so we don't have to learn by hard experience what we could have learned by study and reason. And let's remember the good stuff, so we don't throw it away for short-sighted experiments. Once liberty is lost, it is not so easily regained.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    March 29, 2013 3:18 p.m.


    Actually, I have often heard members comment that the need to extend temple blessings (and the gospel throughout the world) was driver in the extension of priesthood blessings. Francis Gibbon’s background confirms this.

    But your question makes it seem as if the mixed race ancestry of Brazil was somehow a secret and it just dawned on Church leaders all of a sudden. Please. Presidents Kimball, Tanner and Romney were sharp men and world travelers.

    That the temple helped bring the issue to the fore? Sure. For PR purposes? Nope.

    BTW, in the NT when the complaint of the Greek widows came to apostles, did they appoint Stephen and the others as a PR move?

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    March 29, 2013 2:52 p.m.


    Washington and DuBois represented different thoughts/concepts but also lived in different times. Washington was born into slavery and died (somewhat young) during WWI. DuBois was born just 12 years later but was born after the 13th Amendment. He lived a very long life and was able to see the Civil Rights movement in full swing.

    It's easy from the current vantage point to criticize. But in his day, Washington was an important leader. Without someone like him, would blacks have been ready for and able to fully utilize the leadership of someone like DuBois?

  • sharrona layton, UT
    March 29, 2013 2:34 p.m.

    *Re: Twin Lights, I am reasonably familiar with both the *history of the church and the** scriptures. Ok,
    *In 1978, Brazil was one of the strongest reasons why the ban was lifted. The opening of its new temple in Sao Paulo, the LDS Church was ordaining hundreds of Brazilians to its priesthood. Did the LDS Church ignore Brazilian history? Between 1538 and Brazil's abolition of slavery in 1888, about five million African slaves were brought to that country. Through mixed marriages, Mulattos make up a substantial portion of the Brazilian population. How would the LDS Church possibly know whether or not those being ordained were qualified? With the dedication of this temple only a few months away, it would seem imperative that the church either lift the ban or face the possibility of a public relations nightmare.

    **(Genesis 7:10 JST), And there was a blackness came upon all the children of Cainan, that they were despised among all people.

  • Billy Bob Salt Lake City, UT
    March 29, 2013 1:40 p.m.

    Booker T Washington truly was an amazing person. Born a slave, then with a hard life after emancipation, he worked his tail off to become a brilliant scholar, speaker, and educator. In a time when the government actively condoned discrimination, Washington was able to raise himself out from poverty and help many other African Americans as he did so.

    Maybe there is a lesson to be learned here. Maybe if the government would keeps its grubby hands out of things, then the African American community (and other minority communities) as a whole will be able to lift themselves up. If you keep treating someone as a victim, that is what they will remain. That is how they will act, and will take no responsibility for themselves. People will act as they are treated. Liberal policies such as affirmative action imply blacks and other minorities are less than whites and thus need so called "help". This is simply not true. Black people are as capable as whites, and should be treated as such. Liberals, although they veil it quite nicely, are the true racists.

  • nonceleb Salt Lake City, UT
    March 29, 2013 1:24 p.m.

    Booker T. Washington was not a progressive. He told blacks to accept the social and political discrimination at the time and fight only for economic advancement. And his idea was to learn a trade. He said pursing a profession was unrealistic - that whites will hire a black plummer, but not go to a black doctor. His philosophy was not "be the best you can be," but be what white society finds acceptable. He urged blacks to be modest, restrained and subdued in dress and behavior, and that if they proved themselves "worthy" they might be embraced into white society. Because he was so popular with white society and a significant number of blacks, he helped enabled the continuation of segregation and discrimination. The true pioneer of civil rights was DuBois. He organized the NAACP, which fought for equal rights through the courts, which ended up being the most effective way to facilitate change.

  • ECR Burke, VA
    March 29, 2013 1:06 p.m.

    Pops - When I check Webster's online dictionary for the word "progressive" it gives 8 different definitions but none of them conform to the one that you have postulated in your post of 12:05.

    The definition I like best is this one "...making use of or interested in new ideas, findings, or opportunities." I'm pretty sure that is the one that Booker T. Washington had in mind when he wrote his record of his visit to Utah. Both the doctrine of the new church and the communitarian nature of how the church members lived was something that interested and pleased him. The reliance on community - both the security of it and the inherent responsibilities of living within it - made for a peaceful, secure place for people who had, for so long, been subject to the violent forces from outside their community. These new (progressive) ideas for living impressed Mr. Washington that's all.

    Yes, LDS Liberal was making a point - perhaps insensitively - to say that "progressive" was not then, nor is it now, a dirty word. Our continued search for new, more successful ways of living is the only way to survive this sometimes harsh planet. That's all.

  • @Charles not from utah, 00
    March 29, 2013 12:31 p.m.

    It always makes me laugh when people like LDS Lib apply definitions of today to words, phrases or times of the past. It usually never works out as is the case in the post today.

    How much "progress" have we really made?

    - abortion on demand
    - divorce on demand
    - homosexuality as something to be embraced and given the status of marriage
    - loss of freedoms and liberty in the name of safety
    - progressives demanding to take away our ability to defend ourselves and family

    I'm glad this story was written as many have never heard of it. I'm sure there are many other newsworthy stories to bring forward to the public.

    March 29, 2013 12:05 p.m.

    @LDS Liberal

    You're confused because the word "progressive" has been twisted to mean quite the opposite in today's lexicon as it once did, as has the term "liberal". The progressive utopia is nothing more than the old tyranny, where everything is wonderful if we would just give up our liberty and conform to how the "wisest" among us would have us live. This equation fails because human nature is such that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The "wisest" inevitably either become tyrants or are displaced by tyrants.

    Yes, there are utopianists - tyrants in embryo - on both sides of the political spectrum.

    And those who perpetually engage in cognitive infiltration simply for the sake of contention are a sorry lot. You know who you are.

  • 10CC Bountiful, UT
    March 29, 2013 11:38 a.m.

    IJ from Hyrum:

    Good thoughts. It often takes a mosaic of opinions to move forward, but to extend your analogy, when the children of today ask what the pile of ashes and circle of stones are, we should explain the campfire.

    In the interest of understanding, "rafinsure" from Elk Grove, CA provides keen insight into a dominant line of thinking from African Americans today. For every Booker T. Washington, there was a W.E.B DuBois, Martin Luther King had Malcolm X.

    The point can certainly be made that without more aggressive seekers of social justice, progress may have been slower, or maybe even not been made. After the Civil War, after emancipation, the South certainly took a giant step backward with Jim Crow laws, lynchings, etc. The case can certainly be made that without pressure from the outside, and aggressive agitation, we might still have segregation.

    Martin Luther King is honored today as a hero for all Americans, but in his time he was accused of being a communist, an anti-American bent on the destruction of our nation.

    Change often involves struggle, and those campfires should be remembered, not covered up.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    March 29, 2013 11:23 a.m.


    Hard time believing what? I am no historian but I am reasonably familiar with both the history of the church and the scriptures.

    Were you responding to my earlier post? That was a specific response to previous postaers who seemed to have a hard time believing that Mr. Washington actually had nice things to say about the Mormons (imagine that . . .).

    If you are going to respond to me, please, please do so on what I have actually commented about. I will try to afford you the same benefit.

    BTW, scattergun quotes really don’t help engage a conversation. At least not for me.

  • IJ Hyrum, Ut
    March 29, 2013 11:17 a.m.

    I found this a very educational article. I was unaware that Mr. Washington had vivited Utah.

    I found the racism, bias, and bigotry of some of the comments alarming. You do not put out a camp fire by throwing wood on it. We can disagree without being disagreeable. You have different views that I do but to make remarks that stir the fire is to keep it going. Sure, there were mistakes and myoptic views by people of all races, religions, etc. but to keep bringing it up and up and up does not advance the platform of peace.

    We also must understand that each of us sees truth differently. Truth can be found but not by a closed mind. The Lord's method is to ask, seek, and knock. If we are relying on our own understanding we will be led down the wrong path eventually.

  • lost in DC West Jordan, UT
    March 29, 2013 11:11 a.m.

    LDS? lib
    today intelligent and progressive are contradictory.

  • Herbert Gravy Salinas, CA
    March 29, 2013 11:09 a.m.

    It would be wonderful if every young person would read his bio "Up From Slavery"? If he could accomplish what he did given his overwhelming disadvantages, anything is possible!

  • Herbert Gravy Salinas, CA
    March 29, 2013 11:06 a.m.

    "LDS Liberal"- And, just how ARE things under that rock?

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    March 29, 2013 10:58 a.m.

    I loved this line --

    “They have certainly made the desert blossom as a rose,” Washington recorded after his trip. “I have never been among a more intelligent, healthy, clean, PROGRESSIVE, moral set of people than these people are …."

    My, how things have changed in 100 years.
    The Intelligent, Progressive Mormons seem to have become the minority in the community today.

  • woolybruce Idaho Falls, ID
    March 29, 2013 9:59 a.m.

    It is a heart warming to see that the community was respectful to BT Washington back in the day. I wouldn't necessarily describe this occasion as the local community being a driving force behind racial equality. Their long time support of Louis Agassiz, the Swiss American who spend decades "proving" that African Americans were not as intelligent as Caucasians, provides another insight into the cultural foundations of the local community at the time.

    It would be refreshing on occasion (not always, just once in a while) for a religious community to be the driving force behind social changes, rather than being the last hold out, being dragged screaming and yelling into a new modern social order.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    March 29, 2013 9:47 a.m.

    RE: Twin Lights, if you have a hard time believing:
    Joseph Fielding Smith, The doctrine did not originate with President Brigham Young but was taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith…we all it is due to his teaching that the negro today is barred from the Priesthood. The Way to perfection, pp 110-111.

    Among the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch of Syria were Barnabas, Simeon (called the black man, Lucius (from Cyrene)….(Acts 13:1 NLT)

    God is … the King eternal, immortal, INVISIBLE, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1Tim 1:17). Skin color is not an issue.

  • rafinsure Elk Grove, CA
    March 29, 2013 9:39 a.m.

    I don't care much for Booker T. Washington. His adherence to the philosophy of accepting discrimination and accommodating it almost set the Civil Rights Movement back. He only pushed more material prosperity in the black community. On the other hand, W.E.B. DuBois said no to Washington's strategy since it would only serve to perpetuate white oppression. Du Bois advocated political action and a civil rights agenda (he helped found the NAACP). In addition, he argued that social change could be accomplished by developing the small group of college-educated blacks.
    DuBois and those like him are the true heroes of the African American community.

  • BevWel Grants Pass, OR
    March 29, 2013 9:31 a.m.

    When the ban on the priesthood was lifted I cried for joy! I imagine that many other "white" Saints did the same. I was taught that all races are Heavenly Father's children. In the early Church many slaves were helped by the LDS people. That is a story that is not often mentioned. This article was another sign that the Church recognizes greatness wherever it is found. I am glad that Booker T. Washington found his visit to Utah to be a pleasant one. Thanks for this enjoyable article of a piece of history.

  • 10CC Bountiful, UT
    March 29, 2013 9:17 a.m.

    A great article about Utah, LDS and African-American history. I'm glad it didn't "whitewash" that Booker T. Washington was not allowed to stay at the Hotel Utah. That was the reality.

    There was a longtime member of Calvary Baptist Church here in SLC named Brother Styles who passed away maybe 5 years ago who worked at the Hotel Utah as a shoe-shiner, though he was not allowed to stay there himself. Much of this history is important and needs to be saved.

    Who can deny the goodness and industriousness among the LDS population that Booker Washington found admirable? Very impressive.

    At the same time, it's still mysterious and perhaps "unexplainable" how the Mormons could engage such an impressive figure as Washington and not look inwardly more intently at their racist beliefs and doctrine / policy / "direct commandment from God" (from the First Presidency in 1949), especially given Joseph Smith's ordination of the Priesthood to blacks, and the sharp turn away from that practice, and the stubborn persistence in that line of thinking until 1978.

    Nonetheless, for those of us who went through that time period, today's views on race among LDS are refreshing.

    March 29, 2013 8:45 a.m.

    I'm glad to see some attention drawn to Booker T. Washington. Yes, he has been largely forgotten. Part of that is due to the Black community themselves; many of them don't value his contribution for various reasons, most of them political in nature. Conservative Blacks especially should revitalize his legacy.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    March 29, 2013 8:17 a.m.

    If you have a hard time believing this, you can find the text of the letter online. I scanned it. Quite positive.

  • ECR Burke, VA
    March 29, 2013 8:11 a.m.

    I found this article to be enlightening and educational. Certainly the Saints at the time of Washington's visit were still feeling the sting of persecution from mainstream America much like Washington and his people were feeling. Even after "the law" allowed for both groups to become legitimate citizens it took, and continues to take, the passage of time for people to stop believing the worst of what they hear about a religious group or race of people. Thank you for bringing the vignette of history forward and educating all of us about a time and experience we all should look to as a model of our behavior today.

    PCMed - Please share just a few of the many reasons you find this article difficult to believe.

  • Jefferson Kalispell, MT
    March 29, 2013 8:00 a.m.

    I notice that when most people use the inane phrase "just sayin'," it is because they know their comment is rude, inappropriate or unsupported. When individuals have "many reasons" for disbelieving published historical accounts and yet fail to cite even one that supports my observations on people who use the phrase 'just sayin'." Personally, I can see why individuals of two persecuted but distinct groups would empathize with and find great pleasure in seeing the success of those whom they would naturally regard as their peers. Does that mean that the feeling was universal amongst all the members? No, but the article does provide us with an interesting snap-shot in the history of America, Utah and the LDS Church.

  • erickmdiaz WVC, UT
    March 29, 2013 7:37 a.m.

    Regardless of what cynics may think, its great article and compliment on Utah society in the face of overall oppresion during Mr. Washington's era. Sure, I would concede that there was a small group of dissadents who despised Booker, but it's safe to say that he it was not the majority opinion. Thanks for this great historic piece.

  • tlaulu Taylorsville, Utah
    March 29, 2013 7:33 a.m.

    Thank you for sharing this bit of history. I'm touched by it.

  • PCMed ,
    March 29, 2013 6:34 a.m.

    I have a difficult time believing this article... For many reasons... Just sayin...