Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.
- Booker T. Washington
Booker Taliaferro Washington (April 5, 1856-November 14, 1915) was born a slave to an African American mother and an unknown white father. He was freed at age nine. Understanding the importance of an education at sixteen Booker T. began attending college in Virginia, working as a janitor to help pay his expenses. After teaching for several years and attending seminary school, Booker T. eventually became the first principal of Tuskegee Institute. There he had the position to advocate on behalf of African Americans, encouraging them to get their constitutional rights through their own moral and economic advancement.
Washington believed in equity. He believed that through technical skills and personal productivity, African Americans would eventually be seen as equals in society. Washington believed in teamwork and excellence. He founded and oversaw the Tuskegee Institute to ensure the continued success of the students, including George Washington Carver. Washington exhibited great character. He worked hard to support his fellow men, and dedicated his entire life to the betterment of others. These values are consistent with those the the Booker T. Washington High School community cherishes.
The original Booker T. Washington High School was a four-room building located at 507 E. Easton St. built in 1913. E. W. Woods was the first principal, serving a modest student population 14 students and two teachers. With a growing Tulsa population, the building on E. Easton St. became inadequate; prompting the construction of a larger three-story building at the same location. Escaping the destruction of the Tulsa Race Massacre, this school served African-American students from 1920 until a third Booker T. Washington High School was erected at 1631 E. Woodrow Pl., in 1950. The first graduating class from this building was the mighty class of 1961.
For sixty years, Booker T. Washington High School served the African-American community of North Tulsa. However, in 1973, responding to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Tulsa Public Schools chose Booker T. Washington to be a model for their school desegregation program. The district began to bus in white students while continuing to allow students who lived near the school to attend as well. This changed Booker T. from a neighborhood to a magnet school as it is known today.
For the school's 90th anniversary, a fourth Booker T. Washington school was built and dedicated in 2003. The current Booker T. Washington High School retained the front section of the old school for its historical significance and is located at 1514 E. Zion St.
Booker T. has a rich history of excellence in academics, athletics and community service. This is noted in the vast number of distinguished alumni. The number of alumni who have excelled throughout the schools rich history prevents us from listing them all. However, many of them have been inducted into the Booker T. Washington Distinguished Hall of Fame.