Washington was a pragmatist who engaged in deliberate ambiguity in order to sustain white recognition of his leadership. Such visibility won him international fame and the role of black adviser to Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft . His widely read autobiography, Up from Slavery (1901), stands as a classic in the genre of narratives by American self-made men, as well as the prime source for Washington’s social and historical philosophy. His racial philosophy did not long survive his death, but in theory and practice, his views on economic self-reliance have remained one of the deepest strains in Afro-American thought.
The school’s dual emphasis on arts and academics consistently produces a stellar list of graduates. Among those are Grammy winners such as R&B vocalist Erykah Badu also known as The Queen of Neo Soul, jazz singer Norah Jones, jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove, members of the gospel group God’s Property and Brave Combo. Other notable alums include dancer Jay Franke, Philadelphia Orchestra cellist John Koen, Broadway's "Porgy and Bess" musical actor Cedric Neal, film composer/musician Darius Holbert, visual artists Christian Schumann and Chris Arnold, drummer Aaron Comess, and Edie Brickell of the New Bohemians.