First of all, both men developed their own names. John H. Johnson was originally Johnny Johnson. When he grew up, his teacher told him that he needed an adult name, so he chose John and put in a middle initial “H.” Booker T. Washington had just the name “Booker.” When he went to school, he chose Washington. Later, he took “T” representing Taliaferro, a name his mother had added. As with Johnson, Booker T. Washington spent all his childhood time working. Both men had a thirst for reading and knowledge.
Both Booker and John had strong mothers who dreamed big dreams for their sons. Both mother had a great deal of common sense and worked hard to fulfill dreams for their sons.
Both Booker and John challenged the idea that a Black youth should presume that he will fail. Both were proud of being Black. Both men set goals for themselves and never let anything get in the way of these goals. Both men fully believed that they could succeed: neither tolerated any thought of failure.
Both Booker and John had strong Black role models, yet there were many white people in their lives who had a strong influence on them. Both men felt that both Black and white people helped them in their climb to success. Indeed, they both felt that a person needed the help of both races in order to succeed.
Booker T. Washington believed that education and especially industrial education would help his people to become everything they should be. John H. Johnson believed that it is important to know Black history and understand that Black can be beautiful and that many Black people have achieved a great deal.
In Booker T. Washington’s autobiography, he seldom speaks of his family and yet you can feel that they were a strength to him. Most of his story includes his path to knowledge and road to success. This is also true in John H. Johnson’s autobiography. You know that his wife and family are powerful segments of his life, but we hear much more of his learning, his mentors and his many successes.