Up from Slavery: Biography

Booker T. Washington was born into slavery in the 1850s in Franklin County, Virginia (United States) and is remembered primarily for his role as educator in the African-American community and also for his often conservative approach to equal rights. As described in his autobiography, Up From Slavery (1901), his mother was African American, and the cook for the plantation where he grew up. His father was a white man from a nearby plantation and he never knew him.After the Emancipation Proclamation of 1865 and the ensuing freedom from slavery, he moved with his family to West Virginia and worked with his step-father in the salt furnaces and later in the coal mines. His autobiography outlines how through determination and the support of others in his family and neighborhood he gained an education and went on to become an educator primarily at the Hampton Institute and then Tuskegee.Washington has been both praised for the commitment he has shown to education and for what he describes as elevating the men and women of African American origin from slavery, and also criticized for his often conservative political stance. His autobiography, for example, prefers on the whole to avoid appearing to be bitter about the effects of slavery. He died in 1915.