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By the time he was 9 years old, Booker T. Washington had already witnessed the horrors of slavery, civil war, and racism. At the age of 16, Washingtons lifelong passion for learning was ignited, and when he turned 25, he established the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama. The school was open to African-American students who wanted to learn vocational skills as a part of their education. Washington also became a leading spokesman for the African-American community.