Born a slave in Hales Ford, VA (now West Virginia), Booker T. Washington was a determined young man. His career path in education was not without controversy. A frequent traveler and speaker, his message was not one welcomed by many African Americans. He believed that African Americans should stay out of politics until they grew as an economic power in this country, and later advocated segregation of the races. His advocates praise him for being conciliatory and a mediator between the races; his critics accuse him of selling out on his principles to those who wanted to slow the progress of civil rights.