This autobiography written by Washington is the story of a Black man who went from slavery to education. He firmly believed that he had to do something to help the freed slaves. He wanted to empower them to progress. He also believed that hard work and a strong sense of one's skills could help the Black population to succeed. He was an optimist.
Booker T. Washington was a former slave. Following the end of the Civil War, many slaves were left with no jobs or means to make a living. Booker T. Washington identified that there was a need to provide former slaves with skills that would help them find employment. He thought if Black men and women could develop skills that did not intimidate White people but provided a necessary service, they would obtain work.
The book walks the reader through Washington's childhood as a slave. The cruelty of the master and the connection a slave has to his or her master. After the Civil War, he recognized that he had to do more for himself, so he enrolled and was accepted at a school for poor Black people called Hampton Institute.
Washington goes on to tell how he founded the Tuskegee Institute and about the classes Black people were taught. They learned skills in making bricks, becoming a domestic worker, and various labor trades. Booker T. Washington provided an entry point into post-emancipation society that Dubois believed would lead to the continued suppression of Black people. However, Washington was needed at the time because were it not for his ideas, many Black people of his era would not have found work.
Washington's autobiography shows that he (and Dubois) was necessary as a leader who opened doors leading to the Civil Rights Movement that would one day follow.