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Booker T. Washington was one of the leading figures in the charge to educate freed slaves during the reconstruction era. Being a free slave himself, he believed that the key to African Americans’ future success was through learning practical skills. Though his emphasis on manual skills as the ticket to advancement for his race drew criticism from those favoring a more balanced education for African Americans, it’s evident that his approach was perhaps better suited to the American social climate of its time. But Booker T. Washington’s ceaseless, pioneering efforts helped to ease white America into a greater acceptance of their fellow Americans.
Due to his place in American History, the Booker T. Washington Birthplace Memorial Commission looked to strike a commemorative coin in his honor. They hoped to raise funds for the purchase and maintenance of his birthplace in Franklin County, Virginia. They were successful, and legislation was passed on August 7th, 1946 authorizing the mintage of up to 5 million coins. There were no stipulations placed on date and mint, an oversight that the Commission took full advantage of over the course of the following years.