This date in 1854 marks the birth of Olivia Davidson Washington. She was a Black educator and administrator, and a critical factor in the creation and success of Tuskegee Institute with her peer and husband, Booker T. Washington.
The daughter of an ex-slave and freeborn mother (Elias and Eliza), Davidson was one of seven children born in Virginia. The entire family migrated to southern Ohio in 1857, where Elias died, prompting Eliza to settle further north in Albany and Athens. This area was influential as an environment for Olivia’s education at the Enterprise Academy and an atmosphere of strong anti-slavery sentiment (the site for three routes of the Underground Railroad). Davidson knew and interacted with many Oberlin College liberals and the ever-changing urban area. She began teaching at the age of sixteen in Ohio and Mississippi.
In 1886, she addressed the Alabama State Teacher Association on the topic “How Shall We Make the Women of Our Race Stronger?” stating the way to improve the situation for Black Americans was to work with the girls who were the “Hope of the Race.”