DIABLO -- It hasn't always been easy to be the great-granddaughter of Booker T. Washington.
However, Gloria Jackson, 60, a Los Angeles resident and founder and president of the Booker T. Washington Inspiration Network Inc., says her relative's legacy as the foremost black educator of his day has been distorted and twisted by the political correctness movement.
The lessons her great-grandfather taught during the late 19th century to millions of ex-slaves, like himself -- all trying to make their way in a post-Civil War, Jim Crow South, are valuable and critical to success today, said Jackson.
She was the keynote speaker for the Republican Party of Contra Costa County's Presidents Day dinner Wednesday at Diablo Country Club, where she was well received by the crowd.
During much of her life she has had to endure "hostility and animosity" from people who call her great-grandfather -- who has been criticized for accommodating the separate-but-equal policies of the time -- a "sellout" or an "Uncle Tom," she said after the talk.
But those types of criticism usually come from people who judge her relative outside of the historical context of his time and don't fully understand his message, said Jackson, who added that she feels blessed to be Washington's great-granddaughter.
Washington was the most prominent African-American leader of his time and espoused the value of hard work, education and economic progress for the advancement of black people. He also founded the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama for black teachers and scholars and the National Negro Business League.
And he also urged other blacks not to stay bitter and angry about slavery's past wrongs.
"I will never let a man make me stoop so low as to hate him, and I'll never let my grievances overshadow my opportunities," she said, quoting her great-grandfather.
Rather, Washington believed that "freedom is a God-given right, not government-given, and carries with it extraordinary personal responsibility and personal sacrifice," she said.
Freedom is "not just the unshackling of a person physically," but it "has to have a psychological component ... It has to have an economic component ... and, most of all, it has to have a spiritual component," she said.
Jackson also espoused the importance of having a strong religious faith in reading the Constitution and warned of the evils of an increasingly secularized government and society. She asked fellow conservatives not to "cower" or compromise their social ideals to broaden the GOP's appeal, after its devastating loss in the 2012 presidential election.
Instead, she urged her audience to be as steadfast and brave "as those abolitionists who rose against slavery."
After all, "slavery of one form or another -- albeit in a much less degree -- can rear its head in many disguised forms: in massive debt, in an out-of-control spending, in overburdensome taxation, in entitlement programs with no responsibility attached, and in political correctness," she said.
Contact Joyce Tsai at 925-847-2123. Follow her at Twitter.com/JoyceTsaiNews.