Booker T. Washington’s Great-granddaughter Draws Closer to her Southern Roots

RALEIGH, N.C., Jan. 31, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Author, speaker, and educator, Dr. Sarah Washington O’Neal Rush—great-granddaughter of former slave turned famous educator, and founder of Tuskegee University—Booker T. Washington, recently moved her homebase from the West Coast to the Southeast of the US. She and husband, Anthony, plan to settle in, or near, the Research Triangle of North Carolina, which encompasses Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill.

Dr. Rush looks forward to picking up in the South where she left off on the West Coast. Through speaking engagements, writing, and creating programs, she impels others to rise above their circumstances. She’s known for drawing a parallel between her story of overcoming difficulties with her great-grandfather’s legacy of resilience. Though she’s quick to point out that her story in no way compares to his story of rising above slavery. She inspires audiences across country to persevere—from kindergarten to college students, to churches, nonprofits, and corporations.

In her award-winning book, “Rising Up from the Blood: A Legacy Reclaimed, A Bridge Forward” she reflects on her life as a teenage mother, raising her son alone in public housing. Yet, against all odds she was able to rise above her circumstances to finish high school early, at the top of her class. Today she credits her tenacity to God, and to Booker T. Washington’s blood running through her veins. Although she wasn’t very aware of either of them during her struggle.

Her dim outlook on life brightened dramatically when she visited Tuskegee University for the first time in her life as a young adult. “Discovering my history and how my great-grandfather and other former slaves were able to do so much more with so much less, changed my life.” Following that visit, she was convinced that when youth and young adults learn about the strength of who they are and where they come from, it has power to change lives. She says, “I am the evidence.” That belief led her to found Booker T. Washington Empowerment Network (BTWEN), a nonprofit created to teach students about their heritage.

One way they were able to accomplish this was by taking a group of students across country following in his footsteps from slavery to freedom. Some of these students had never been outside of their communities, let alone on an airplane. They flew to the plantation where Washington was born in Virginia. Then they went to West Virginia, where his family moved immediately following freedom. From there they went to Hampton University where he gained his education. Next was the White House, where Washington was the first Black invited to dine with a president. The trip concluded at Tuskegee University, where deep reflection of the entire trip transpired.

Although she insists that she’ll never forget where she comes from—born in Berkeley and raised in Oakland—Dr. Rush says she’s excited about the move. “While I’ll deeply miss my friends, family, and colleagues, I look forward to being amid the rich history that the South offers. Especially the landmarks of where many of my ancestors’ lives began, and being in the mecca of the second largest number of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, HBCUs, in the US.”

Anthony Rush


SOURCE Dr. Sarah Washington O’Neal Rush