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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.
From this Armageddon rose this Moses, Booker Taliaferro Washington, who was born in 1856 in Virginia, of a slave mother and a white father he never knew. But he gave no indication in his autobiography of the pain this almost certainly caused him: "I do not even know his name. I have heard reports to the effect that he was a white man who lived on one of the nearby plantations. But I do not find especial fault with him. He was simply another unfortunate victim of the institution which the nation unhappily had engrafted upon it at that time." After Emancipation, Washington began to dream of getting an education and resolved to go to the Hampton Normal Agricultural Institute in Virginia. When he arrived, he was allowed to work as the school's janitor in return for his board and part of his tuition. After graduating from Hampton, Washington was selected to head a new school for blacks at Tuskegee, Alabama, where he taught the virtues of "patience, thrift, good manners and high morals" as the keys to empowerment.
An unabashed self-promoter (Tuskegee was dependent upon the largesse of its white benefactors) and advocate of accommodation, Washington's "pick yourself up by your bootstraps" and "be patient and prove yourself first" philosophy was simultaneously acclaimed by the masses, who prescribed to self-reliance, and condemned by the black intelligentsia, who demanded a greater and immediate inclusion in the social, political, and economic fabric of this emerging nation. Washington's philosophy struck a chord that played like a symphony within the racial politics of the times. It gave a glimmer of hope to the black masses; it created for whites a much-needed locus for their veneer of social concern—funds flooded into Tuskegee Institute; and finally, the initiatives of the black intelligentsia, led by W. E. B. Du Bois, were, for the moment, neutralized.
Washington "believed that the story of his life was a typical American success story," and he redefined "success" to make it so: "I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in his life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed." His powerfully simple philosophy that self-help is the key to overcoming obstacles of racism and poverty has resonated among African Americans of all political stripes, from Marcus Garvey to Louis Farrakhan.
Introduction: An Exemplary Citizen
Writing Up From Slavery
Critical Response to Up From Slavery
Washington's Leadership Style
Up From Slavery and Traditions of Black Autobiography
Washington's Program of Racial Uplift
Washington's Career After Up From Slavery
Up From Slavery
1. Timothy Thomas Fortune, Letter to Booker T. Washington, 1895
2. Booker T. Washington, Letter to Ednah Dow Littlehale Cheney, 1895
3. Booker T. Washington, An Open Letter to Benjamin Ryan Tillman, 1895
4. Booker T. Washington, A Statement on Southern Politics, 1900
5. Booker T. Washington, Letter to John A. Hertel, 1900
6. Lyman Abbott, Letter to Booker T. Washington, 1900
7. Booker T. Washington, Letter to Lyman Abbott, 1900
8. W. E. B. Du Bois, Book Review of Up From Slavery, 1901
9. William Dean Howells, A Review of Up From Slavery, 1901
10. Booker T. Washington, Letter to Edgar Gardner Murphy, 1904
11. Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Booker T. Washington and His Critics, 1904
A Washington Chronology (1856-1915)
Questions for Consideration