By Diana Farnsworth
Reception to be held at the Mission Inn
The Black Voice News, the Mission Inn, community leaders and supporters will join almost 50 members of the Washington Family to celebrate Booker T. Washington's family reunion as well as his historic visit to Riverside. Forty-seven family members are expected to travel to Riverside, including Margaret Clifford and Gloria Jackson Baskin the oldest living granddaughters, and Nettie Washington-Douglass, the first born of both the Washington and Frederick Douglass family. The Black Voice News and Foundation and their community partners will be hosting a community reception for the Washington Family Reunion at the Historic Mission Inn on June 20th at 5:30-7:00pm. Reservations are limited and required, but there is no cost to attend.
Booker T. Washington's first visit to the Inland Empire was in 1903 when he delivered the keynote address for the opening of Claremont College. He also spoke at the Methodist Church in Ontario, and at the California Teacher's Association Convention in Los Angeles. During his visit Washington developed a strong friendship with Frank Miller who was the owner of the "Glenwood Mission Inn." At Mr. Miller's request, Washington returned in 1913 to visit. His travels took him to Northern California and, according to Dr. Rudolph Lapp, a noted historian, "he impressed everyone to whom he spoke."
Research shows that he did not return to California until 1914 to speak in Riverside and Redlands, specifically Second Baptist Church, one of the oldest Black churches in Riverside, and the Music Room at the Mission Inn. When he returned home, he regretfully passed away and the residents of Riverside and Redlands held memorial services of which many attended.
While Booker T. Washington was in Riverside, he spoke to Whites and Blacks en mass to impress upon them the importance of the accumulation of property and of a lifetime commitment to exemplary contributions to society. The purpose of his travels was also to raise money for the Tuskegee Institute that he founded.
In 2004, the Black Voice News and the Black Voice Foundation organized a symposium to commemorate Booker T. Washington's visits and connection to Riverside's history. A bust in Washington's likeness was crafted by Bernard Edmonds, a local artist. The statue was erected and unveiled in 2004 and strategically placed in a prominent area in front of what is now the Historic Mission Inn Hotel. Several members of the National Park Service's Underground Railroad Network to Freedom section attended the unveiling.
"In 2004 the family voted to hold the 2008 reunion in Riverside because of the dedication of Hardy and Cheryl Brown and their family to preserve this local history story with national significance. This would be the first reunion to be held west of Alabama and we are very, very excited the reunion will be right in my back yard," said Kenneth Morris, a resident of Corona and the great great grandson of Washington and the great great great grandson of Frederick Douglass. Because of distance he hadn't been able to attend in the past.
The family will visit local sites and on Sunday attend Second Baptist Church, where Pastor Clifton Davis, of "Amen" fame will bring the 9:00 a.m. message. "We are excited our church holds the distinction of being the only historically Black church he spoke in when he visited. In 2004 some of the family members attended when the bust was dedicated," said Second Baptist Pastor Rev. T. Ellsworth Gantt II.
The Mission Inn, T&S Investments, Second Baptist Church, The University of California, Riverside, African American Historical Society, Siebert, Brandford, Shank & Co., LLC, The Gas Company, and The Press Enterprise are co-sponsoring the reception.