Booker T. Washington: The Wizard of Tuskegee 1901-1915

Booker T. Washington: The Wizard of Tuskegee 1901-1915

Booker T. Washington: The Wizard of Tuskegee 1901-1915

Booker T. Washington: The Wizard of Tuskegee 1901-1915

Synopsis

The first volume of Louis R. Harlan's biography of Booker T. Washington was published to wide acclaim and won the 1973 Bancroft Prize. This, the second volume, completes one of the most significant biographies of this generation. Booker T. Washington was the most powerful black American of his time, and here he is captured at his zenith. Harlan reveals Washington's complex personality--in sharp contrast to his public demeanor, he was a ruthless power borker whose nod or frown could determine the careers of blacks in politics, education, and business. Harlan chronicles the challenge Washington faced from W.E.B. Du Bois and other blacks, and shows how growing opposition forced him to change his methods of leadership just before his death in 1915. Also available: Volume 1, $10.95k, 501915-6, 394 pp., plates

Excerpt

Is the rope and the torch all the race is to get under your leadership?

WILLIAM MONROE TROTTER

IT WAS inevitable that Booker T. Washington's leadership would face bitter challenge from within the black minority group and a denial of its legitimacy, for he rose and prospered at a time of deep depression for blacks, the worst since emancipation. The great majority of black freedmen remained in the rural South, exchanging slavery for another exploitative system of sharecropping, and most of them had to mortgage their share of the crops to a merchant--often also the landowner--who would furnish them the necessities until the harvest. Some even slipped over the edge into peonage, or involuntary servitude for debt. Just as Washington was establishing his rule over this empire of poverty, southern whites in the 1890s began a movement of several decades duration to take back the rights that the Civil War and Reconstruction had established for blacks. They took away the voting rights of most blacks, extended segregation to virtually every walk of life, justified this by a verbal assault that denied human status and dignity to blacks, and punctuated these changes by lynchings and race riots. Northern whites also adopted white supremacy in attitude and deed, particularly by occupational and residential segregation.

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