Masterplots II: African American Literature Up from Slavery Analysis

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

At one level, Up from Slavery is an interesting autobiography by a prominent African American educator, perhaps the most influential ever. Washington certainly believed in, and unceasingly supported with time and resources, the Tuskegee philosophy that bore the imprint of Hampton Institute. The book is also an apologetic for that educational and race relations theory. Throughout its coverage, the reader is constantly reminded of both the difficulties confronted in building and maintaining Tuskegee and the supportive response by the American public, especially the political and economic leadership. Washington sought in the book to solidify and expand that support, always giving a positive note even in the most problematical times.

Washington’s account is also a valuable history of Tuskegee Institute from 1881 to 1915. Threading through the personal vignettes and commentaries, a fairly coherent historical summary of the institute’s development can be discerned. From modest beginnings, it grew into a major university by the mid-twentieth century.

In Washington’s time, it was largely a teacher training institution and a vocational school devoted to training African Americans in the requisite skills in an economic sphere that Washington assumed, not entirely accurately, would be the best source of jobs for many decades. As it turned out, the vocational training Tuskegee emphasized would not be sufficient to meet the job needs of...

(The entire section is 553 words.)