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Up from Slavery: An Autobiography (Modern Library 100 Best Nonfiction Books) [Kindle Edition]

Booker T. Washington
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (108 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time

The Black educator documents his struggle for freedom and self-respect and his fight to establish industrial training programs.

Editorial Reviews Review

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.


"It remains one of the most important works on such an influential African-American leader."--Professor Delia Crutchfield Cook, University of Maryland, KC

"This book is a must read."--Professor Warren C. Swindell, Indiana State University

"This book is definitely a classic and I have used every year im my African-American history course."--Professor W. Marvin Dulaney, College of Charleston

"Reading 'Up From Slavery' has provided my students with an opportunity to encounter a key figure in African American history on his own terms. It has provided them with greater insight into the mind of this man and his times."--C. Matthew Hawkins, Carlow College

"This is a very useful edition of one of the most important primary sources in African American history. Andrews sets it in context in a first-rate introduction." --Roy E. Finkenbine, Hampton University

Product Details

  • File Size: 354 KB
  • Print Length: 133 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1846375819
  • Publisher: Modern Library (June 11, 1999)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FC1KTS
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #840,820 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
76 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Just for African Americans November 4, 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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.
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71 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic with relevant lessons for today March 22, 2000
I found this to be a most amazing work. In telling the story of going from a child of slavery to the founder and president of the Tuskegee institute, Mr. Washington illustrates for us the life-lessons which can empower any individual or race in our free society today.
Namely, look to your neighbor in love, not anger; recognize the nobility in working hard for something rather than expecting charity; be willing to give yourself to a greater cause; believe that people are capable of great things and they will live up to your expectations; recognize the importance of education, not just of the mind, but of the body and soul as well; recognize that any man who provides value to the community in which he lives will be accepted and even welcomed into that community; and above all, trust in God to care for your needs.
I highly recommend this book as a testament to the positive result of thinking from a perspective of Love and Abundance rather than Anger and Scarcity. When Mr. Washington's humility is measured against his accomplishments, he becomes in my eyes one of the greatest Americans to have lived.
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42 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Booker T. Lost, But Who Won? April 12, 2005
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Over the years, being aware of the great rivalry between Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Dubois I had grown used to Dubois followers saying Booker T. was an accommodationalist Uncle Tom, and other similar statements. I read Up from Slavery as a teenager, and I didn't get that impression from him at the time, so I usually dismissed people's negativity about him as misunderstanding. Having recently re-read the book, it made a far stronger impression on me as an adult and I feel compelled to give my own opinion, especially since the old "accommodationalist Uncle Tom" reviews are also on this site.

The time period after the slaves were freed was known as Reconstruction. The former slaves were both scared as to what the future held and deeply excited to experience this concept of freedom with the fire and enthusiasm of the Newly Born. For the most part they were very ignorant of their past, of how to establish themselves as a thriving community, how to interact with their white neighbors in a way beneficial to all and how to best use their money and time to grow as individuals. The whites were equally scared as to what the future held (change is often scary) but they were also excited for the former slaves and 100% wished them well. Yes, this was also the time period that formed the KKK, but evil racists were always around and thankfully, then as now, are in the minority.

As Booker T. explained, both the owner and the owned had been damaged by the chattel slavery institution. Because the lowest member of society was the slave to whom all menial labor was delegated to, both races saw work/labor as something to be avoided. The whites saw it as something that was beneath them, while the blacks felt they should rise up above it as free men.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The power of a positive thinker November 8, 1999
"Up from slavery" documents the rise of Booker T. Washington, from a plantation slave to the head of Tuskegee college in Alabama. Along the way his narrative details the squalor and humiliations of his childhood and ends with a number of journalistic adulations regarding his career and speeches. It is a wonderful book, yet curious.
Unlike Frederick Douglass, the severe critic of the slaveholding South, Washington's outlook is decidedly postive. He refuses to get into any kind of individual or group bashing, but prefers to dwell on the successes of blacks, improving race relations, and the success of his school- and students. He becomes enamored of his own success on the stump, but such is the case with most ambitious, forward looking individuals. I would have liked a bit more criticism, and fewer excerpts from the newspapers of his time (regarding his speech-making ability.) His repeated refrains about service and merit (being the only true measure of a man), are sound. All in all, this is an upbeat, inspiring story from a man who truly defied the odds, and his winning attitude is sorely needed today.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yearning to Read Review December 3, 2010
Booker T. Washington: once a slave, beat down and told he could do nothing, accomplish nothing; now an example to all men, white and colored, raised above others. Why? Hard work and a desire to do good in this world. He accomplished more than a lot, from getting into a school by sweeping and cleaning a room, to teaching at a night school, to starting Tuskegee, to speaking at huge events at which no black man had ever spoken. He met great men, did great things, built a great community, and loved greatly.

He wrote this autobiography about his truly great life. He wrote it simply, giving facts in a very interesting way (one thing that he felt was important while giving speeches). I had a hard time staying interested because I was very busy while reading it and felt like I had to rush to get it done. However, I liked it enough to know that I'll read it again in a less-busy time and really immerse myself in it. There's so much to learn, so much to discover in a life like Washington's. While reading it I couldn't help but be thankful for everything in my life. I was born with many luxuries given to me. Booker T. Washington started out with the clothes on his back and a dirt floor to sleep on. Education was a piece of paradise to him; food was a luxury beyond all comparison. I have always had both of those, in abundance.

One word to describe this book would be thankful. Not the word I would normally use to describe a book, but really, it is. Booker T. Washington's thanks resonates throughout the whole story. Even when he was hungry and on the streets - I could almost taste his thanks whenever he'd receive a meal or a warm place to stay.

Wonderful. Recommended to all who love a good autobiography, and even to those who don't.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
a must read by a truly amazing human being.
Published 1 month ago by MICHAEL OSBORNE
5.0 out of 5 stars Booker T. Washington- Friend, Hero, Role Model
I love the narrative of this book and Mr. Washington does an amazing job telling his story in a concise, clear, motivating way. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Ima Good Student
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring book by a man that grew up as a ...
Inspiring and optimistic book by a man that grew up as a slave and, through much determination and hard work, rose to become a nationally renowned education leader in the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by kevin maxwell
5.0 out of 5 stars from rags to riches
All of Booker T. Washington's work ethics should be applied today. He started his life in slavery, worked hard and became not only a lecturer, but president of a school he... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Barb Moe
4.0 out of 5 stars My Review
i really like this book. I read it a long time ago when i was younger and it still has meaning in todays world. Booker T Washington was a great man. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mary C. Carter
5.0 out of 5 stars Faith and Grit
It is an historical classic about a uniquely American story. The book takes you into the minds and homes of recently emancipated persons and follows the vision of one tenacious man... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Don Finkell
5.0 out of 5 stars UP FROM SLAVERY
This was wonderfully done. It transforms the reader into the main character. You almost feel all the pain and fright she goes through. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Sherrie Shown
5.0 out of 5 stars exceptional man
An exceptional man for the shamelessly cruel times in which he lived. Illuminating book about race, life and the dogged determination of one man to make a difference that lasts to... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Zelalem Dawit
5.0 out of 5 stars Every young person should read
While this is a very difficult read, the truths are what our young people today need. Tuskegee Engineers are the best.
Published 6 months ago by Lynda Sanders
5.0 out of 5 stars Up from slavery
I really enjoyed learning more about Booker T. Washington. He was a brilliant man who found peaceful means to overcome the very deep bigotry of the times he lived in.
Published 6 months ago by Jazziegirl
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