Booker T. Washington’s Colorado Connection

By Carol Mobley
 The School
 Tuskegee State Normal School was founded in 1881 by Booker T. Washington realizing the vision of Lewis Adams.  When the school was authorized by State legislation, there was no land, buildings or teachers.  Booker T. Washington was the principal from July 4, 1881 until his death in 1915.  Dr. Washington secured the school’s independence via legislation and granted authority to act independent of the State of Alabama. The school relied on philanthropy to support the student’s tuition.   The University has been known by a series of names over the years including, Tuskegee Normal School (1887-1891), Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (1891–1937), Tuskegee Institute (1937–1985), and finally 1985 Tuskegee University.
Booker T. Washington
 Dr. Washington was born in a slave hut but, after emancipation, moved with his family to West Virginia. Dire poverty ruled out regular schooling so at age of nine he began working, first in a salt furnace and later in a coal mine. In 1872 he enrolled at the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (now Hampton University) in Virginia.  After graduation in 1875 he taught for two years in a day school and adults at night. He continued his studies and joined the staff of Hampton.  It was here that he got the call to serve as teacher and principal for Tuskegee State Normal School.  Dr. Washington, a highly skilled organizer and fund-raiser, was counsel to American Presidents, a strong advocate of Negro business, and instrumental in the development of educational institutions throughout the South.
It was his approach to philanthropy that makes a connection with Colorado.  A letter written in 1901 to A.E. Carlton of Cripple Creek tells the story.
Mr. A. E. Carlton Cripple Creek, Col.
 Dear Sir:
I write thinking that you might like to take some interest in our work.
Our students pay their own board partly in cash and partly in labor but are wholly unable to pay their tuition in addition. Any sum, however small, will help us.
 The enclosed circular gives definite information.
Yours truly,

Signed Booker T. Washington
 Probably written by students, but signed by Booker T. Washington, this letter details the scope of Dr. Washington’s dedication to his students and the school.  It was not beneath him to ask for help for African-American students.
 By Harris & Ewing –, Public Domain, php?curid=9810903

Albert E. Carlton
 Mr. Carlton came to Colorado in 1889 to combat tuberculosis.  By 1891 he is feeling much better and so in 1893 he and his brother started a freighting business between Midland Railway and Cripple Creek.  His investments in his business secure him the concession to sell coal in the district for the Colorado Fuel & Iron Corporation. And by 1898 his freight business and coal concession have made A. E. Carlton a rich man. He buys the First National Bank of Cripple Creek, and begins to purchase mining property.

 Probably no man in the history of Colorado Springs has had such a wide business experience and no one had created industries on such a large scale. Cripple Creek mining, Arkansas valley and western Colorado beet sugar, New Mexico oil, California Sugar and oil, Montana and Wyoming sugar, railroads, banks, all felt his influence.

This letter, thousands of postcards, photographs, and other ephemera will be available at the Denver Postcard & Paper Show January 21-22, 2022.  It will be at the Holiday Inn Lakewood, 7390 W Hampden Ave., Lakewood, Colorado.  Admission is $5.00 at the door but with this article receive $1.00 off admission.  For more information visit www.denverpostcard or contact Carol or Bill Mobley at

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