Black leaders in the North later turned against Washington's gradual approach to breaking down racial barriers, but Washington was hailed by white leaders. He was invited to consult with the President at the White House and succeeded in creating numerous charitable funds that led to the creation of schools throughout the South. Washington was the first black person to be depicted on currency, and his image was also printed on stamps.
Washington secured financial support from benefactors such as the Carnegie and Rockefeller families, as well as the vice president of Sears. In an age when Southern legislatures were reluctant to fund public schools for African Americans, these funds along with matching donations from black communities led to the creation of nearly one-third of the public schools in the South in the early decades of the 20th century.
Booker T. Washington was raised in present-day West Virginia and a replica of his boyhood cabin may be seen at Malden, a few miles east of Charleston. Washington died on November 14, 1915, at the Tuskegee Institute campus. He nurtured his West Virginia ties throughout his life by occasionally returning to speak at the West Virginia Colored Institute, which is now West Virginia State University. Washington is also memorialized by the Booker T. Washington State Park in Institute, West Virginia.
The bust displayed in the Booker T. Washington Memorial at the West Virginia State Capitol was sculpted by William D. Hopen. The bust is a replacement for the original bust that was moved to the capitol from Malden. The Booker T. Washington Memorial was re-dedicated in 1985.
Washington's legacy is complicated. He turned a one-room school in Alabama into a university and spent his life campaigning for better conditions and educational opportunities for African Americans in the South. In his quest to secure funds for this school and others, however, he made many compromises with Southern whites such as the tacit acceptance of segregation and the assumption that African American schools would focus on job preparation rather than the liberal arts and other fields that might prepare African Americans for professional careers.
Washington's tactics and his personal ambition led to conflicts with W.E.B. DuBois, William Monroe Trotter, and other black leaders in the North. From the perspective of these Northern leaders, Washington's tactics were tantamount to accommodating the agenda of segregationists. From Washington's perspective, however, his tactical negotiations with white Souther leaders were necessary both for survival and as a way to secure funding for black schools. While Washington raised funds that led to the construction of hundreds of schools, his legacy is marked by his personal ambition to speak for all African Americans rather than accept the perspectives of those who hoped to confront segregation more directly.