Born a slave just a few years before the Civil War, Booker T. Washington became one of the most influential African-Americans during his lifetime as an advocate of education for his people. Many people criticized Washington for his passive role in the fight for civil rights, but he believed that education and hard work was more important and would ensure the prosperity and livelihood of African-Americans.
The inscription on the base of Charles Keck's sculpture, Booker T. Washington Lifting the Veil of Ignorance, reads, "He lifted the veil of ignorance from his people and pointed the way to progress through education and industry." The sculpture stands in front of Booker T. Washington High School, Atlanta's first African-American secondary school and the alma mater of Martin Luther King, Jr. Seniors take their class portrait around the sculpture. Support from Target Stores and the National Endowment for the Arts helped conserve this artwork.