Booker T. Washington in Perspective: Essays of Louis R. Harlan

Booker T. Washington in Perspective: Essays of Louis R. Harlan

Booker T. Washington in Perspective: Essays of Louis R. Harlan

Booker T. Washington in Perspective: Essays of Louis R. Harlan

Excerpt

Louis R. Harlan first saw the Booker T. Washington Papers almost forty years ago, when they were still a vast unsorted collection of more than a million items stored in the bowels of the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress. This vast collection represented the most voluminous historical record of any individual black American in our history, with the possible exception of the Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., which are now being edited for publication.

Since that first contact with Washington's amazing documentary legacy, Louis Harlan has devoted a large portion of his professional career to the study of the enigmatic and controversial educator and race leader. Harlan's study of Booker T. Washington resulted in the publication of the articles collected in this volume, a fourteen-volume documentary edition of Washington's papers, and a two-volume biography of Washington, which won two Bancroft Prizes and the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1984.

The essays in this collection span more than twenty-five years of research and writing on the life and times of Booker T. Washington. They represent a scholarly odyssey to understand Washington from several perspectives, all necessary to explain the motives and actions of a man who was the most powerful black man in America at the opening of the twentieth century and the last national race leader who was born in slavery. Many of the articles in this volume originally appeared in major scholarly journals and books, while others, such as "Booker T. Washington : The Labyrinth and the Thread," appeared in small circulation publications which are difficult to locate.

To reveal Washington in all his complexity Harlan had to understand not only the man but his times and the lives of his contemporaries, both black and white, who shaped Washington's philosophy and his actions. The essays often cover in greater narrative detail the subjects presented in ix

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