Up from Slavery: An Autobiography

Front Cover
Some chroniclers have called black history from 1881 to 1915 'The Age of Booker T. Washington' and the label is apt, for he was without question the most prominent spokesman for his race during the post-Reconstruction period. Many of his contemporaries deemed him a savior -- the one man who could bring concrete improvement to the lives of African-Americans while also promoting racial harmony. Others, particularly black intellectuals, called him a traitor to his race, asserting that his accommodationist position not only contributed to black disenfranchisement and dejure segregation but, in the words of W. E. B. Du Bois, 'practically accepts the alleged inferiority of blacks.' But however one judges Booker T. Washington, his vast influence is inescapable, and his autobiography, "Up From Slavery," winner of the National Book Award, is essential reading for anyone seeking insight into the black experience in the early 20th century. In "Up From Slavery," Washington does not dwell on his relatively brief period of enslavement, focusing instead on his struggle to rise above it. For a more balanced look at the experience of slavery itself, this special Collector's Edition includes excerpts from the slave narratives of five less-well-known black writers, offering perspective and background to Washington's story. The text is further enhanced by a rich mix of archival material from the New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

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User Review  - debs4jc - LibraryThing

Things that impressed me from this book: * Booker's firm belief that merit would be recognized and rewarded. He considered this a great universal truth and a consolation for the persecuted. He ... Read full review

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User Review  - fredjryder1946 - LibraryThing

Not so much an autobiography as it is a personal journal of his life work as founder and Principal of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. His struggle to find funding in the early days is fascinating ... Read full review

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About the author (2006)

Booker Taliaferro Washington, 1856 - 1915 Booker T. Washington was born a slave in Hales Ford, Virginia, near Roanoke. After the U.S. government freed all slaves in 1865, his family moved to Malden, West Virginia. There, Washington worked in coal mines and salt furnaces. He went on to attend the Hampton, Virginia Normal and Agricultural Institute from 1872-1875 before joining the staff in 1879. In 1881 he was selected to head the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, a new teacher-training school for blacks, which he transformed into a thriving institution, later named Tuskegee University. His controversial conviction that blacks could best gain equality in the U.S. by improving their economic situation through education rather than by demanding equal rights was termed the Atlanta Compromise, because Washington accepted inequality and segregation for blacks in exchange for economic advancement. Washington advised two Presidents, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, on racial problems and policies, as well as influencing the appointment of several blacks to federal offices. Washington became a shrewd political leader and advised not only Presidents, but also members of Congress and governors. He urged wealthy people to contribute to various black organizations. He also owned or financially supported many black newspapers. In 1900, Washington founded the National Negro Business League to help black business firms. Washington fought silently for equal rights, but was eventually usurped by those who ideas were more radical and demanded more action. Washington was replaced by W. E. B. Du Bois as the foremost black leader of the time, after having spent long years listening to Du Bois deride him for his placation of the white man and the plight of the negro. He died in 1915.

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