Up from Slavery is the autobiography of Booker T. Washington detailing his work to rise from the position of a slave child during the Civil War, to the difficulties and obstacles he overcame to get an education at the new Hampton University, to his work establishing vocational schoolsâmost notably the Tuskegee Institute in Alabamaâto help black people and other disadvantaged minorities learn useful, marketable skills and work to pull themselves, as a race, up by the bootstraps. He reflects on the generosity of both teachers and philanthropists who helped in educating blacks and native Americans.
He describes his efforts to instill manners, breeding, health and a feeling of dignity to students. His educational philosophy stresses combining academic subjects with learning a trade (something which is reminiscent of the educational theories of John Ruskin). Washington explained that the integration of practical subjects is partly designed to reassure the white community as to the usefulness of educating black people.
This text, while certainly a biography of his life, is in fact an illustration of the problem facing African Americans by detailing the problems of one. By showing how he has risen from servitude to success, he demonstrates how others of his race can do the same, as well as how sympathizers can aid in the process.
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