The struggles that African-American's faced immediately after the Civil War were nearly as difficult as those they faced with legal slavery. If it were not for some of the most revolutionary men and women of color, it is likely that their rights would have been harder to achieve than previously thought; Booker T. Washington was among those incredible individuals that helped push for equality and freedom. "Booker" as he was known for the first nine years of his life was born into slavery on April 5, 1856, in Hale's Ford, Virginia - though there is no record of this, historians have widely consented to these facts. As soon as the war ended and every slave was freed, Booker moved to West Virginia and began grade school. It was at this point that he added the Washington to his name in an effort to integrate into society. By the time he was sixteen, Washington started university at the Hampton Normal and Agricultural institute. It was during this time that he realized the best way for freed slaves to integrate was through education, particularly through learning practical skills. Once he graduated in 1872 Washington set out to help southern African-Americans in their pursuit of life after slavery. In 1881, he founded the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Alabama. The curriculum focused on manual skills, which received some criticism from others who believed a more balanced education would be ideal for achieving a better life, but it is likely Washington was just appealing to the social climate of the time. Regardless, his institute helped thousands integrate into society and changed the way people looked at education for people of color. In commemoration of his actions and to purchase and preserve his birthplace plantation, the Booker T Washington Birthplace Memorial Commission requested these coins be struck to raise funds. Legislation for the coins passed on August 7, 1946, for the authorization of five million coins with no mint or date restrictions. Fortunately they were able to raise the funds and purchase the plantation despite less than extravagant coin sales. As a result of low demand, most of these coins were melted in 1951 so those that remain are a true American commemorative artifact.