Up From Slaveryis one of the most widely read African American autobiographies in the English language. It details how prominent African American leader Booker T. Washington rose from slavery to become one of the nation’s most prominent orators and educators at the turn of the 20th century. This reprint of the original 1901 edition is enhanced by 12 related documents and an essay by W. Fitzhugh Brundage that provides students with the necessary background and context to appreciate the role of Up From Slavery in American history. It addresses Washington’s life and career, criticisms of Washington from within the African American community, the social and political context in which the book was published, reactions to its publication, and the ways in which Washington carefully crafted his autobiography to further his cause among white audiences. Document headnotes, a chronology of Washington’s life, questions for consideration, and a selected bibliography provide further pedagogical support.
Nineteenth-century African American businessman, activist, and educator Booker Taliaferro Washington's 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 influential, agriculturally based 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. The potency of his philosophies are alive today in the nationalist and conservative camps that compose the complex quilt of black American society.