Up From Slavery, the autobiography of Booker T. Washington, engrained itself in the list of classics, and in the list of books that have impacted me. From slave boy to college founder, Booker T. Washington’s life is already remarkable, but it is even more so reading it in his own words.
Education was an important theme in this book. Education was Booker’s childhood dream, driving force, and ultimate destination. One thing that resonated with me was how deeply Booker, his family, and community hungered for education. For them, Hampton Institute was paradise and education was the prize. When Booker returned from Hampton, the elders in his community longed to know about his experience, “they had spent the best days of their lives in slavery, and hardly expected to live to see the time when they would see a member of their race leave home to attend a boarding school.”
But Booker didn’t believe in traditional education only, he wanted to equip black people in “book-learning” but also in trade and life skills. This was important especially in Reconstruction because newly freed slaves needed both kinds of this intelligence to thrive.
The imagery in this book was wonderfully vivid, from the descriptions of the European countryside during Booker’s vacation to descriptions of poor people with only one fork per family but an expensive piano no one can play.
Booker T. Washington’s heart for black people-his people, and his work at Tuskegee was woven expertly through this narrative. I whole-heartedly recommend this book as a window into the life of an amazing orator, educator, and college founder.