For the 50 years that followed its publication in 1901, Up from Slavery was the most widely known book written by an African American. The life of Booker T. Washington embodied the legendary rise of an American self-made man, and his autobiography gave voice for the first time to a vast group that had to pull itself up from nothing. In the well-documented ordeals and observations of this humble and plainspoken schoolmaster we find traces of Washington’s other nature: the ambitious and tough-minded analyst. Here was a man who had to balance the demands of his fellow blacks with the constraints imposed on him by whites.
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