THIS book begins in 1901, when Booker T. Washington at the age of forty-five was approaching the zenith of his fame and influence, and ends with his death in 1915. It is a biographical study in the sense that its focus is on the complex, enigmatic figure of Washington, the most powerful black minority-group boss of his time. It also recounts the inner life and struggles of the small black middle class in that generation once removed from slavery, as a coterie of college-bred black men and women challenged Washington's powerful coalition of northern white philanthropists, southern white paternalists, black businessmen, and such members of the black professional class as he could attract to his side.
Washington was born in 1856, a mulatto slave on a small Virignia farm, and spent the early years of freedom in West Virginia working in the salt furnaces and coal mines and as a houseboy, and attending a Freedmen's Bureau school.* After graduating from Hampton Institute, then a secondary normal and industrial school, he founded Tuskegee Institute in 1881 in the Black Belt of Alabama. During the next fifteen years he was engrossed in building his institution, mollifying the local whites, and raising money in the North.
A single speech in 1895 catapulted Washington into national fame and recognition as a black spokesman. In what became known as the____________________