From the time of his famous Atlanta address in 1895 until his death in 1915, Booker T. Washington was the preeminent African-American educator and race leader. But to historians and biographers of the last hundred years, Washington has often been described as an enigma, a man who rose to prominence because he offered a compromise with the white South: he was willing to trade civil rights for economic and educational advancement. Thus one historian called Washington's time the "nadir of Negro life in America." Raymond W. Smock's interpretive biography explores Washington's rise from slavery to a position of power and influence that no black leader had ever before achieved in American history. He took his own personal quest for freedom and acceptance within a harsh, racist climate and turned it into a strategy that he believed would work for millions. Was he, as later critics would charge, an Uncle Tom and a lackey of powerful white politicians and industrialists? Sifting the evidence, Mr. Smock sees Washington as a field general in a war of racial survival, his compromise a practical attempt to solve an immense problem. He lived and worked in the midst of an undeclared race war, and his plan was to find a way to survive and to flourish despite the odds against him.
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Raymond W. Smock is co-editor, with Louis Harlan, of the fourteen-volume Booker T. Washington Papers. From 1983 to 1995 he served as the first official Historian of the U.S. House of Representatives. He is now director of the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
Chapter 1: The Quest for Freedom
Chapter 2: The Power of Education
Chapter 3: The Tuskegee Idea
Chapter 4: The Beginning of an Era
Chapter 5: The Modern Moses
Chapter 6: Inside the Briar Patch
Chapter 7: Two Warring Ideals
Chapter 8: Niagra's Mighty Waters
Ray Smock's short, readable life of Booker T. Washington, the African American leader a century ago, explains that age of white supremacy to the present generation that has just elected a black man President of the United States. One of the great strengths of Smock's biography is its linkage between Washington's life and his times. Smock treats Washington's controversial decisions about challenges to white oppression as deliberate consideration of what was possible in the racial climate at the time. His lively narration is based solidly on twenty years of study as an editor of the fourteen volumes of the Booker T. Washington Papers. -- Louis R. Harlan, winner of the Pulitzer prize for Booker T. Washington: The Wizard of Tuskegee, 1901-1915 Raymond Smock has focused his exceptional knowledge gained from co-editing the Booker T. Washington Papers in this remarkable and concise appraisal of how the Tuskegee Wizard operated in the age of Jim Crow. In this refreshing and insightful book, Smock unravels and clarifies Washington's association with wealthy philanthropists, secret civil rights activities, political influence, and obsession with control. -- Pete Daniel, curator of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, author of Lost Revolutions This is a wonderful addition to the Library of African American Biography. . . . Mr. Smock's Booker T. Washington satisfies the need for a volume that will be accessible to students, both undergraduate and graduate, and to scholars and the general-reading public who need to 'catch up on the latest' on a most important figure in African-American History. -- John H. Bracey, author of African American Mosaic: A Documentary History from the Slave Trade to the Present This is a fresh and arresting portrait of one of the most important and least understood figures in American social reform. Smock has spent a lifetime studying Washington and no one understands the man better or has captured his character and cultural impact with greater insight or clarity. The book is a masterwork of concision and compacted power. -- Donald L. Miller, author of City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America This biography of Washington is a joy to read. Not only because Smock astutely identifies and assesses the sometimes bewildering complexity of Washington's life and career-the many twists, turns, and ambiguities of a complex, driven black leader-but also because Smock does so with uncommon brevity and clarity. All this, along with an obvious, deep understanding and rare feeling for the tragic times in which Washington's turbulent career unfolded. -- Avon Kirkland, filmmaker and author of Up From Slavery: The Triumph and Tragedy of Booker T. Washington Washington's story is a captivating one, told entertainingly by Smock, and readers will encounter much that resonates with today's topical issues. * Times Literary Supplement * A powerful survey, this is a fine choice. . . . Highly recommended addition to public and college library biography shelves. * Midwest Book Review * A brief and readable biography that makes accessible the arguments that have dominated Washington historiograpy. Recommended. General and undergraduate libraries. * CHOICE * Smock's study is a valuable book that will be a mainstay of libraries and classrooms for years to come. * Journal of Southern History *