The Booker T. Washington Monument is a commemorative site dedicated to the life and times of one of America’s most renowned African Americans. The monument area is comprised of 239 acres, which is the location of the original Burroughs tobacco plantation in the 19th century.
When you visit, you’ll also find a replica 1850’s tobacco farm, as it would have looked back in the day. As you’ll discover during your visit, the Burroughs plantation wouldn’t have been able to operate if it weren’t for their numerous slaves. Farm buildings on-site that you can explore include recreated slave quarters, which are essentially little wooden cabins that barely had room for a family of slaves.
I was struck by the expanse of the plantation during my visit. When you read about stories of slavery or see Hollywood movies about these times, I don’t feel they can compare to actually walking the grounds and seeing where so many people labored in the hot sun and weather while their so-called “masters” lived in luxury in the great house.
For your own edification and the education of your children, the Booker T. Washington Monument is a place to learn how not to treat fellow humankind.
Booker T. Washington was born into slavery in 1856. Like other children his age, he labored in the tobacco fields alongside his parents and siblings. When Booker was nine years old, slavery was abolished. From one hour to the next, Booker was a slave and then he was free. But, according to his written records, the jubilation of freedom lasted but an hour, as the ramifications of instant freedom without remuneration became clear. The slaves were free, but had no money and nowhere to go for sustenance or shelter.
With his family, Booker traveled to Malden, WV, to live with an uncle. As Booker grew into adulthood, he obtained an education but never forgot his roots. He became the face of emancipation, and stood up for racial equality throughout his life.
The Booker T. Washington Monument stands, not only for one man, but for all the slaves. It helps to educate visitors about how these slavery plantations worked and illuminates the day-to-day suffering of African Americans of those times. Visiting here is an education about a dark time in history that you and your family shouldn’t miss.
How To Get To Booker T. Washington Monument
From your vacation rental in Smith Mountain Lake, VA, the Booker T. Washington Monument is just a 28 minute car ride. You’ll be traveling south and then north to get around the lake and travel up to the Monument site.
Take 40W for about 5 miles to the SR 834 intersection, where you’ll turn right to head north. Take SR 834 for a little over 13 miles until you reach SR 670. Hang a left and then a quick right onto VA 636 for Lost Mountain Road. (Don’t worry, you’re not lost!) You’re almost there when you reach VA-122. Turn right and you’ll see the signs for the Monument.
Admission & Info
Happily, there is no admission fee to get into the Booker T. Washington Monument. It’s an absolutely free destination that you can enjoy with your family and friends. Once inside, you can freely enjoy the many exhibits, videos, tours and special events on the property.
If you're part of a group and would like a guided tour, that can also be arranged as long as you book in advance. If you have a group and you just want to walk around freely without a guided tour, you don’t need special permission.
Booker T. Washington Monument is open to the public seven days a week, from 9 AM to 5 PM. They close on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Years Day.
There are restrooms, free, abundant parking, and trails that you can follow if you wish, with posted signage and plaques to educate you along the way.
Bring the stroller, water to stay hydrated and food. There is a water fountain by the Visitor Center, but you don’t want to keep going back to that just to get a drink. There’s no place to get so much as a nibble inside the park area, so bring snacks, sandwiches or anything else that you might need to eat. I recommend picking up some deli items from Wilson’s Country Store on SR 834 on your way to the Monument.
On your way back to your private Smith Mountain Lake condo, you’re going to pass by Brooks Mill Winery. They offer a very unique and intimate wine tasting experience that you might enjoy. It’s not Napa Valley, but in many ways it’s better because of the personal attention. It’s located on SR834, just about 4.6 miles south of the Booker T. Monument. It’s a great place to sit down and rest after all the walking at the plantation.