Up from Slavery chronicles the life and times of Booker T. Washington. In this captivating autobiography, Washington recounts his personal voyage from the shackles of slavery to the pinnacle of prominence.
The Tuskegee Institute, later to become today’s Tuskegee University, plays a large role in the book, so much so that the latter half of Up from Slavery is as much about Tuskegee as it is about Washington. When criticized for limiting the educational horizons of blacks by emphasizing agricultural and vocational subjects at his school, Washington declares that these are the true bases of black economic development.
Although condemned by many contemporary black intellectuals as an accommodationist, if not apologist, for the racism of early twentieth-century America, Washington largely redeems himself. In the autobiography he enunciates his pride in being black and makes clear that the forces that shaped his life came not from his unknown white father, but from his humble black mother.
Up from Slavery is the story of one man’s rise to the leadership of his people in the face of a hostile larger society. Along the way he experiences many disappointments and setbacks, but always perseveres.
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.