Upon its publication in 1901, Up From Slavery became the most influential book written by an African American. As one of a handful of classic American autobiographies, its place in the literary and historical canons is assured. This Norton Critical Edition includes as its text the first book edition, published by Doubleday, Page and Company. The text is fully annotated and includes the index that appended the first book edition.
"Contexts and Composition History" includes a selection of letters between Washington and his editor, Lyman Abbott, that reveals the process by which Up From Slavery
was planned and written. Reviews from The Nation, North American Review
, and Colored American Magazine
offer examples of contemporary reaction to the book. An excerpt from My Larger Education
includes Washington's impressions of Frederick Douglass and of his African American critics (among them W. E. B. Du Bois) and reveals his reaction to the mounting criticism of his social, economic, and political programs during the last years of his life.
"Criticism" offers a collection of eight essays that present a variety of perspectives on Up From Slavery
by W. E. B. Du Bois, Kelly Miller, August Meier, Louis R. Harlan, Sidonie Smith, James M. Cox, Houston A. Baker, Jr., and William L. Andrews. Together, these essays represent ninety years of the best critical and historical analysis of Up From Slavery
and its author.
A Chronology and Selected Bibliography are included.
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.