Riverside’s monument to Booker T. Washington outside the Mission Inn

Photo of the Mission Inn taken around the time of Booker T. Washington’s Visit
Photo Credit: Detroit Publishing Company, Library of Congress

After showing two of her films and a work in progress version of her new documentary The Rosenwald Schools at a nearby venue, Ms. Aviva Kempner walked over to the historic Mission Inn in downtown Riverside, California. There was a moment of serendipity in this stroll when she came upon a bust of the great African-American educator, speaker and writer Booker T. Washington, whose partnership with Julius Rosenwald figures prominently in her new film. The bust, located near the main entrance of the hotel, commemorates Washington’s 1914 visit to Riverside at the invitation of the Inn’s proprietor, Frank Miller.

A 1922 photo of Frank Miller, owner of the Mission Inn

M. Bernard Edmonds created the monument, which was funded by a community drive in Riverside. The Black Voice News reported on the unveiling in 2004, an event that several of Washington’s descendents attended. The bronze bust honors Washington and also represents the tradition of abolitionism in Riverside. The Mission Inn is a landmark of Riverside and, in addition to Washington, has hosted more than a few presidents, scores of political and social luminaries and many celebrities.

Photo of the Booker T. Washington bust, taken in 2012

The plaque beneath the bust contains a quote from Washington: “I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life, as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.”

By Michael Rose