Up from Slavery: An Autobiography
Up from Slavery is one of the greatest American autobiographies ever written. Its mantras of black economic empowerment, land ownership, and self-help inspired generations of black leaders, including Marcus Garvey, Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, and Louis Farrakhan. In rags-to-riches fashion, Washington recounts his ascendance from early life as a mulatto slave in Virginia to a 34-year term as president of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. From that position, Washington reigned as the most important leader of his people, with slogans like "cast down your buckets," which emphasized vocational merit rather than the academic and political excellence championed by his contemporary rival W.E.B. Du Bois. Though many considered him too accommodating to segregationists, Washington, as he said in his historic "Atlanta Compromise" speech of 1895, believed that "political agitation alone would not save the Negro," and that "property, industry, skill, intelligence, and character" would prove necessary to black Americans' success. Booker T. Washington was an American political leader, educator and author of African ancestry, best known for his tenure as President of Tuskegee University. Washington was constantly criticized by his contemporaries for being too conciliatory to whites and not concerned enough about civil rights. It would not be until after his death that the world would find out that he had indeed worked a great deal for civil rights anonymously.