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Booker T. Washington’s classic memoir of enslavement, emancipation, and community advancement in the Reconstruction Era.
Born into slavery on a tobacco farm in nineteenth-century Virginia, Booker T. Washington became one of the most powerful intellectuals of the Reconstruction Era. As president of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, he advocated for the advancement of African Americans through education and entrepreneurship. In Up from Slavery, Washington speaks frankly and honestly about his enslavement and emancipation, struggle to receive an education, and life’s work as an educator.
In great detail, Washington describes establishing the Tuskegee Institute, from teaching its first classes in a hen house to building a prominent institution through community organization and a national fundraising campaign. He also addresses major issues of the era, such as the Jim Crow laws, Ku Klux Klan, and “false foundation” of Reconstruction policy.
Up From Slavery is based on biographical articles written for the Christian newspaper Outlook and includes the full text of Washington’s revolutionary Atlanta Exposition address. First published in 1901, this powerful autobiography remains a landmark of African American literature as well as an important firsthand account of post–Civil War American history.
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Born into slavery, Booker T. Washington (1856–1915) went on to become an American educator, author, and adviser to the presidents of the United States. As a self-educated man, Washington believed in accessible education for the post-slavery black community. In 1881, Washington became the first leader of the Tuskegee Institute, an all-black school. In 1895, due to lynching plaguing the South, Washington gave his infamous “Atlanta Compromise” speech, which brought him national recognition. Washington became a seminal leader in the field of Black politics, working with communities to build schools and churches despite the criticism he faced for his involvement with prominent white leaders. His prolific writing career includes fourteen books, most notably Up from Slavery and The Future of the American Negro.
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