Monday, April 5, 2010

Booker T & the Birthday Boys

Should you be of the inclination to have cake today, tell yourself that a bit of indulgence is in order for today is the anniversary of the birth of Booker Taliaferro Washington. His enslaved mother had her boy baby on this day in 1856, neither of them knowing, for one thing, that it was the birthday of English poet Algernon Swinburne (in 1837), or for another, that future film actor/dreamboat-of-handsomeness Gregory Peck would be born on April 5, 1916. Certainly everyone in baby Booker's world, including his white father, would have gotten a bang out of knowing that on another 5th of April (in 1937), Colin Powell would be born. He'd grow up to be America's first African American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then U.S. Secretary of State.
Meanwhile, back in the 19th century, Booker T. W. worked and sweated his way up from poverty to become an inspiring educator, a crackerjack of an orator, and the man who hired young Geo. Washington Carver to come teach agriculture down in Tuskegee, Alabama, at the school BTW had founded there. As the first African-American to dine at the White House as an Invited Guest, BTW (and President Theodore Roosevelt, who'd done the inviting), upset a whole lot of people who didn't like the way their world was changing, but that's what happens in the spring: The world changes. Green shoots of hope sprout out of the cold wet world.

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