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Up From Slavery
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One of the most inspirational and moving autobiographies ever written. It chronicles the life of Booker T. Washington from his birth as a slave to his eventual triumph against the odds as he became one of America-s leading educators and reformers. One can not but feel for him as he describes the horrors of his early life with complete honesty. This truly motivational book is an all-time classic!

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.

Customer Reviews:

  • Eye-Opening Narrative
    Booker Taliaferro Washington was perhaps foremost in what he called "bringing up the black race". He did perhaps more than Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and W.E.B. DuBois ever did. Why? Because Washington did it softly, humbly, and quietly. The other black leaders attempted revolution and immediate change - both led to violence. Booker T. Washington's methods led to slow, but sure and sweeping change. He sought reform, not revolution. His life is clearly an example of Christian piety and firm faith in God. These two things also set his work apart as more successful than any other black leader. Perhaps modern black leaders should re-evaluate their philosophies for change based upon this great leader's model....more info
  • Not Just for African Americans
    What is most striking about Washington's autobiographical account of his rise from slavery to revered statesman is his lack of resentment toward white culture. Rather than focus on what whites should do to uplift blacks, Washington encouraged blacks to take individual agency over their lives. He believed the best way for blacks to achieve social parity was to become indispensable members of the communities in which they lived. His absolute confidence in black resilience would probably be regarded as naive in today's political discourse. And yet the long list of his (and all black culture's) achievements during this period are unmistakable and nothing short of inspiring.

    It's a shame this book is on the African American Studies shelf. The lessons from Washington's life apply to all humans, not just blacks. This book would be an excellent addition high school reading lists as a model of the values consonant with personal success....more info

  • a positive message for all
    Booker Ts story really inspires. It just shows that with positive thinking and motivation, tremendous difficulties, odds and challenges are beatable. It's a message many of us would gain from if we would just stop complaining and blaming others for our lot in life, and just get moving on up!

    I've reviewed the CreateSpace edition, ISBN 1438268165. It's a clear, easy to read version, well designed and the print and binding are excellent. Highly recommended!...more info
  • Great message
    This book has an inspiring message, and gives a viewpoint that is not often looked at. I thought its content was instructional....more info
  • give up the hate, forgive each other
    I feel that I have met an extraordinary man of history after reading "Up From Slavery". This book is an autobiography by Professor Booker T Washington (1856-1915). He was born into the deplorable condition of genocide which bears the euphemism of "slavery". He found a way through iron will and determinism to "do a thing that the world wants done" enabling to "make a living for himself and others" through embracing the joy and love of labor. His greatest accomplishment was the founding and building of the Tuskegee Institute of Normal and Industrial Institute from a chicken shack to a school with assets of over $500,000 free from mortgage. He rose to national and international attention as the most influential African-American of his time with his famous speech calling people to "cast down your bucket where you are." People who accomplish great things are controversial, and Professor Washington was no different. Dr W E B Du Bois in "The Souls of Black Folk" wrote of Professor Washington, "His doctrine has tended to make the whites, North and South, shift the burden of the Negro problem to the Negro's shoulders and stand aside as critical and rather pessimistic spectators; when in fact the burden belongs to the nation, and the hands of none of us are clean if we bend not our energies to righting these great wrongs." During the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960's Washington's philosophy was called into question by none other than the great Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr, who wrote in his book "Why We Can't Wait", "Be content [Washington] said in effect, with doing well what the times permit you to do at all. However, this path, they soon felt, had too little freedom in its present and too little promise in its future." These are the issues that continue to develop, and will, I suspect, for some time to come. I was most impressed by the capacity for Professor Washington to forgive. Of all his impressive accomplishments, this is one that spoke to me undeniably of his courage and strength. He forgives the man who sired him, a man worthy of the title "father" only in the strict biological sense. Professor Washington writes, "Whoever he was, I never heard of his taking the least interest in me or providing in any way for my rearing. 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." Some contend that his attitudes were politically motivated, yet, I do not see what Professor Washington would stand to gain by forgiving the man who "fathered" him. With unblemished sincerity, he forgave his slave masters, ("man-stealers", as Frederick Douglass called them). Professor Washington wrote, "I pity from the bottom of my heart any nation or body of people that is so unfortunate as to get entangled in the net of slavery. I have long since ceased to cherish any spirit of bitterness against the southern white people on account of the enslavement of my race." He genuinely felt that he was far better off than his masters because, "the slave system on our place, in a large measure, took the spirit of self reliance and self-help out of the white people." Why would he believe this? The epitome of his life's goal was to find and do something which was valued. The very thing his masters could not do. "My old master had many boys and girls, but not one, so far as I know, ever mastered a single trade or special line of productive industry." Some may, after reading this book, still feel that Professor Washington's attitudes were politically motivated. I cannot accept that idea. I have never known any one nor do I believe it is possible to feign this level of forgiveness. It is my opinion that Professor Booker T Washington is a reflection of a love which is divine. This is one of the reasons I am so impressed with this man, and this book....more info
  • Enlightening historical narrative, with public speaking bits
    This book is a fascinating historical account of the atmosphere of America during Reconstruction. The opinions of an ex-slave on matters of racial relations, education, suffrage, and so forth are certainly worth considering in any study of this period. I loved Booker T. Washington's autobiography for this.

    But I also enjoy this book because it has character. Mr. Washington gives bits of advice on how to be a good public speaker - as he was a speaker of much renown - and this was quite delightful as I have often been somewhat confused by such matters. Add to this his endearing stories of the white and black races, and you have yourself an extremely worthwhile and enjoyable read....more info

  • More Alike Than Different
    The social confines of race are a self-imposed form of slavery, figurative bonds which may be loosed only through the merit of magnanimous work. Much has been discussed in recent years about the topics of racial equality, minority education, and our national history regarding members of the African-American race. It cannot be denied that a great injustice has been served this particular ethnic group, but the future is each citizen's responsibility, black and white alike. Booker T. Washington's reflective memoir, "Up From Slavery" positively affirms the virtues of equal parts work and study for a mutually successful society, race notwithstanding. As an autobiography chronicling Washington's humble beginnings in Confederate West Virginia among illiterate slaves to Boston society appealing to the socially prominent, "Up From Slavery" offers a contemporary view on race relations and the human condition. The narrative details Washington's childhood, contrasting the degrees of educational prosperity, domestic sanitation, and religious liberty with the unalienable provisions of slave owners. Washington illuminates the process of ascertaining an education against all odds, laboring in coalmines to afford night school, teaching eager black students, and finally dedicating his life's work to the renowned Tuskegee Institute. Rather tedious in these recollections, the book's plot is unnecessarily laden with exhaustive details and lacks depth in historical perspective. Given the time period in which it was written, there is margin for error in hypothetical suggestions for ethnic culmination, theorizing equal opportunities that did not materialize until seven decades later with desegregation. Individual statements are debatable, such as Washington's idealistic perspective on racial harmony being a non-issue directly after the Civil War, which seems highly unlikely given the past hundred years of civil rights conflict. Explaining the process of rising above local circumstances is the plot's best feature flowing smoothly into a chronological process, specific and concise. It plainly states the South's oppressive environment without delving into racial sympathy, lending remarkable strength. Written with commendable intentions, undue criticism of the white majority is withheld, replaced by cautious optimism and a hopeful spirit. The plot in general follows a logical sequence highlighting one man's endeavors to strive for a better life in impoverished circumstances and his inspiration to freed slaves. Typical of memoirs, the autobiography's focal point is Booker T. Washington's personal account and unique perspective. While other characters are not specifically elaborated, Washington is quick to credit his teachers, mentors, and benefactors in gracious tribute. Their admirable attributes are illuminated in model exemplification, deliberately but briefly identified. Not presenting thoroughly interesting characters for lack of breadth, the reader is focused on Washington himself rather than other outstanding individuals. His personal beliefs are well defined, confided in a trusting tone. Instead of feeling familiar with a cast of literary icons, the reader is acquainted with the author's own integrity and moral fiber. The main character is a sound representation of autobiographical focus, developed, interesting, and personal. In spite of race and social position, hard work employs utmost application in striving to reach full potential and earnest effort begets its own reward. "The man who can do something that the world wants done will in the end make his way regardless of race My experience is that there is something in human nature which always makes an individual recognize and reward merit, no matter under what colour of skin merit is found." Washington introduces his commentary on physical labor's role in mental preparation with that solid statement, proven true the world over. People are generally more alike than different, united in faith, hope and love, set to the same toil with the same ultimate goal. "Up From Slavery" `s central theme corresponds with reality's unprejudiced outcome of individual prosperity through rigorous application. In a progressive attempt to improve society, citizens are bound not by the iron chains of a ruling majority's tyranny but a communal commitment to self-improvement. Although borders, language and culture differentiate ethnic civilizations, their people endeavor for the same fundamental mores. Education, religion, freedom, and a reasonable level of personal satisfaction are sought by all races. Black and white, Asian and Latin American. Catholic, and Jewish, Buddhist and Baptist. English and Spanish, Mandarin and Ebonics. Beneath any layer of flesh, colored or pale, blood runs red as slavery's symbolic rose. People share their humanity if not their race, undivided for the betterment of our society through collective ability. The continuing popularity of Booker T. Washington's "Up From Slavery" originally published in 1903 has fostered universal awareness for nearly one person at a time by appealing to the heart, the mind, and the common human soul. When an individual improves his mind, converges the efforts of bodily work and recognizes the plight of fellow human beings, his life is changed. The world glows with the amber of hope for a united future, one person at a time....more info
  • up from slavery
    I bought 10 to give to my black friends, in just two chapters you can discover what a great man this was,he had a great preception of people and life. I am waiting for a new supply so I can order 20 to give out. This man is a great example for all races to look up to....more info
  • Courageous and Inspiring
    This year marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of "Up From Slavery." I hope that in celebration of this anniversary, many people will discover Washington's autobiography for the first time. I was fascinated and inspired by Washington's quiet and humble manner as he describes what it was like to be a slave as a youth. Washington traces his struggle for an education, and his later challenges and trials as an educator. His account of the building and molding of the Tuskeegee Institute is one of the most inspiring stories I have read in years. Washington did not want to have anything handed to him. He wanted to earn every goal he set for himself, and earn them he did. His influence was and continues to be incredible. This is an amazing book every American should read....more info
  • One to Study
    Mr. Washington's book is facinating to me as an American history major. I found that learning from a black man what Reconstruction meant to a lot of former slaves was very enlightening. Mr. Washington offers up a point of view that in many cases, slavery served both black and white people well. The lines between slave owners and the slaves were often blurred; not just due to interracial relations, but socially as well.

    But, this book is not about slavery. Mr. Washington came from nothing and not only lifted himself up from poverty and ignorance, but determined that his life's work would be to assist others in their own efforts at bettering their lives. I found it terribly ironic that the former slaves, and children thereof, thought that their ultimate goal was to no longer do any kind of manual labor. That is what got this country into trouble. White men relying on others to do their manual labor. Mr. Washington's pragmatic approach to teaching black men and women how to care for themselves and learn a practical trade makes a lot of sense to me.

    The best parts of this book have to do with Mr. Washington's attitude toward life. His observations and attitudes are so positive and broad, that they are not defined by race. I found myself wanting to highlight and underline parts of the book; but the book I was reading was borrowed. Hence I am going to purchase a copy for myself. I do not buy many books; however, this book is one to keep for life. I am sure to refer to Mr. Washington's book in the future; Not just for historical content, but to keep me on track in life....more info

  • A Good Man, an Inspiring Life
    I read this some time ago, combined with The Souls of Black Folk and The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. Up From Slavery was the warm-up, I guess, since it was the least offensive. Of course one reader's "least offensive" is another reader's "Uncle Tom". However one can't fairly judge someone from that era using the criteria from the modern time- a fairly simple principle that is too easily forgotten.

    With that out of the way, let me say that as a southern kid in the late 60's reading this book I was tremendously inspired. We were hardly that far removed from Jim Crow, at least in years, so I think I was able to grasp a little of the obstacles Washington overcame. Still this is less a story of race than a story of faith, of vision, of the triumph of hard work, and the triumphs both in spite of as well as because of his fellow man.

    The history in not too debatable, as it is an auto-biography. By definition thus the history of the author, and this becomes one of the strengths of the books- the common sense, no-nonsense love of life that
    causes BTW to continually break through to the other side, and bring the reader with him. By the end of the book I wanted to start a college (as he did) and help my fellow man up from poverty any way I could. To not marvel at his accomplishments and to denigrate him with labels out of time is to do great injustice to the man, his relationship with God, and to his incredible achievements.

    To sum: it is inspiring and real, and it gives a glimpse into some of the peculiar hardships resulting from the peculiar institution, but the process is almost the polar opposite of the victimhood route of today- from someone who could most justifiably have claimed himself such a victim.
    ...more info
  • a classic
    i ordered Up from Slavery because I thought I needed to read it. However, I found I wanted to read it. I recommend it for all Americans. It was truely inspirational....more info
    Several years ago I read this book for the first time and was intigued with all the vivid details Booker T. remembers from his childhood. Since then I have reread parts of this book many times and have branched out to reading other slave writings. I think this book and some of the others should be included in every junior high and high school curriculum. Other books about the slave condition I would recommend are THE JOURNAL OF LEROY JONES, A FUGITIVE SLAVE, I WAS BORN A SLAVE, and THE DIARY OF A SLAVE GIRL, RUBY JO....more info
  • Up From Slavery Booker T. Washington
    ...Up From Slavery Booker T. Washington

    Up From Slavery is an autobiography by Booker Taliaferro Washington. Booker T. Washington was a great man who fought his way out of slavery to become an educator, statesman, and political power. He was born near a crossroads post-office called Hale's Ford, in the year 1858 or 1859. He does not remember the exact year, month or date because it was the time of slavery. He lived in a cabin with his mother, his older brother John and his sister Amanda until after the Civil War when they all were declared free. He does not know any of his history beyond his mother, and less beyond his father. For most of his boyhood life he lived in an old broken down cabin containing no windows and no beds. Almost everyday of his life was occupied by some kind of labor. He had no time for himself or sports. On several occasions he went as far as the schoolhouse door with one of the young mistresses to carry her books. The picture of several dozen boys and girls in a classroom engaged in study had always made a big impression on him. He felt that to get into a schoolhouse and study in the way they did would be about the same as being in paradise. After the slaves were freed there were two points that the blacks throughout the south agreed on: That they must change their names and they must leave the old plantation for at least a few days or weeks to feel sure that they were free. After freedom was declared Booker's stepfather sent for his mother and the whole family to come to the Kanawha Valley, in West Virginia. Booker always had an intense longing to learn to read. When he was young he determined that if he accomplished nothing else in life, he would some way get enough education to enable him to read common books and newspapers. He worked in a coal mine to help pay for his education. He overheard a few people talking about Hampton University it struck his interest. He set many of his goals to go there and get a good education. One teacher that influenced Booker T. Washington was Mrs. Ruffner. She encouraged and sympathized with him in all of his efforts to get an education. While working for her he was allowed one hour a day to go to school. While living with her he began to get his first library together. In 1872 he set out to Hampton Institute a school in West Virginia, he didn't know how much it would cost or where it was. His brother helped him out with the money. When he left his mother was very weak and broken in health he hardly expected to see her again, so parting with her was very hard for him. He had to sleep on the streets because the white would not let him stay in the hotel. He had many interactions like this one. He began working for a captain in a seaport unloading crates. Booker gained his entrance to Hampton Institute by cleaning a room for Miss Mary Mackie, the lady principal. Mr S. Griffths Morgan of New Medford, Mass. from 1872-1876 donated his tuition scholarship. Booker graduated from Hampton Institute in 1875. Booker returned to Hampton Institute and started the night school to aid deserving students. In conclusion this book Up From Slavery is a very well written book. It has many details on the life of Booker T. Washington. I recommend it to young kids who enjoy reading about history and how the slaves were freed....more info

  • "Fabulous book by a selfless human being"
    If you feel like you have it bad and life has passed you by.... READ THIS BOOK! I usually avoid biographies and autobiographies because they often seem to boast and be egotistic. Booker T. Washington did not strike me as a selfish individual. His whole life centered around education (life-long learning). Think about what a wonderful world we would have if children (and adults) followed this concept. The majority of people never open a book (non-fiction) after they leave school! I have had a solid determination for the past four or five years, to improve my life through books and tapes, and I feel as though I've found my true calling in life... learning! This book is primarily about raising the black race from being enslaved to an educated and highly skilled race. The author was highly instrumental in bringing this process about. He was educated and completed his schooling at the 'Hampton' school with honors. He then built and directed the 'Tuskegee' school in Alabama, and devoted his whole life to service. While this book was very informative, and is considered a milestone by a true pioneer, it is a little bit monotonous, thus four stars. I would highly recommend it nevertheless. Many of the thoughts, attitudes, and sayings of Booker T. Washington have been used by modern authors and speakers, and will live forever. Our country and the black race are forever in his debt for the legacy he left behind. I certainly feel better about life after reading this book. You will too....more info
    A lot of things have been said and written concerning Booker Taliaferro Washington's book, "Up From Slavery". Some were hot, and some were cold. But one focus that unites all the varying opinions is that every critic or reviewer agreed that the book is superb. Also, most people acknowledged that Booker T. was a distinguished scholar (despite the overwhelming odds that weighed him down).
    However, one big fact that most reviewers of this work have consistently overlooked is the circumstances that surrounded both the book and its writer. In order to have an accurate perspective of this book, we must not fail to evaluate what life was like for Booker T. After all, the book in question is his autobiography: written in a country where he was born and nurtured as a slave, before becoming a freeman whose basic human rights were consistently denied.
    One fact that pops up in this regard is that Mr. Washington was never free in the real sense of the word. The type of freedom a typical Black American enjoys today was an unseen luxury throughout Booker T's life: (1856-1915).
    In the same period, the life expectancy of an average Black American was less than half of what it is today. This was not because the folks then were all HIV-positive, but simply because any White man could barbecue a Black man right on the street and nothing would happen.
    That Booker T. chose not to criticize the grievous atrocities that the ubiquitous racists meted on American Negroes is understandable. It was not a matter of choice per se, rather, the swain wanted to stay alive. He understood his environment well, and had a first-class knowledge of how racist America worked. Again, it is only a dummy who wouldn't know that the (first) publisher of "Up From Slavery" wouldn't have considered the manuscript if it contained anything that will embarrass or infuriate White America. And, Booker T. Washington might be made to pay a ghastly price for authoring an "offensive write-up". We must not forget that this book was written a century ago: when "freedom" and "justice" were very different from what it is today. In those days, many "critical" Black-oriented manuscripts ended-up in dustbins; and their authors were vilified and hunted down.
    Today's critics who relax in comfortable armchairs and bellow that this book "lacked depth" in this way and that way, weren't born as Booker T. was; and I forgive them each time they use that word: 'slavery', in vain. Booker T. died in 1915, and history will always attest that Black Americans continued to struggle for freedom more than fifty years after his death.
    An old adage has it that: 'A word is enough for the wise'. Thus, I will like to end my comments here. "Up From Slavery" is a very fine book. It is small: less than 250 pages. Hence, I don't need to review or analyze it with a thousand pages. Mr. Booker T. Washington did his best: given the insurmountable circumstances that surrounded his world....more info
  • Up From Slavery
    Alina Stanton Nov.15

    Up From Slavery

    The author of this book is Booker T. Washington. This book is about Booker T Washington. It's an autobiography of how he grew up as a slave and as a free man. It shows the struggles that a lot of poor slaves had when they were freed from slavery.

    When Booker was young he lived with his mom on one plantation, his dad lived on another. He lived with his mom, half brother, half sister and step dad. Booker really wanted an education, so he started to teach himself to read. He had an English dictionary that emphasized on the alphabet and he read it all the time. Soon the slaves were freed. Booker started going to a day school once it opened up. He was not able to go to school later on because he had to work in a coal mine with his dad. He made a deal with his dad to work on the coalmines early in the morning till nine then goes to school. When he was a little older he decided to go to a school called Hampton Institute in West Virginia. You can live there and work as well as go to school.

    While he lived there he had to work hard. He had to make money all the ways he could. He worked as a waitress a maid and a janitor. He met a general by the name of Armstrong. He respected this man a lot because he was very important. Booker felt honored to meet such a wealthy man, he liked the general a lot because he was very kind. General Armstrong gave Booker a personal check, which he had been saving for his own use, to help Tuskegee. That summer after his first year in the institute he had to work to pay off a sixteen-dollar debt. His mother died during the summer, he knew that he would never see her again. He graduated that year and then went to teach at the school that he attended when he was a boy. In 1878 he entered Wayland Seminary in Washington D.C. for a year of study. While he was there he made speeches in West Virginia for General Garfields presidency campaign. He graduated first class in Tuskegee in 1885.

    In my opinion, this is a descent book. It shows how the poor slaves grew up in a white world and how they struggled. It has a lot of information on Bookers life and how he struggled to make a good living and get a good education. I think Booker T. Washington is a well mannered, honorable man....more info