19th-century African American businessman, activist & educator Booker Taliaferro Washington
's Up from Slavery
is one of the greatest autobiographies ever written. Its mantras of black economic empowerment, land ownership & selfhelp inspired generations of leaders, including Marcus Garvey, Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X
& Louis Farrakhan. In rags-to-riches fashion, he recounts ascendance from early life as a mulatto slave in Virginia to 34 years as president of the agriculturally based Tuskegee Institute in Alabama
. There he reigned as the most important leader of his people, with slogans like "cast down your buckets," emphasizing vocational merit rather than the academic & political excellence championed by his contemporary W.E.B. DuBois
. Tho many considered him accommodating to segregationists, Washington, as stated in his historic Atlanta Compromise speech of 1895, believed that "political agitation alone would not save" & that "property, industry, skill, intelligence & character" would prove necessary to black success. The potency of his beliefs are alive today in the nationalist & conservative camps composing the complex quilt of black American society.
Malcom X was a black American leader in the mid-twentieth century who joined and then left the Nation of Islam, afterwards to be assassinated by some of its adherents. W.E.B. DuBois, in contrast to Booker T. Washington, believed that blacks in America needed to be assertive and if necessary confrontational in staking out their rights. Alabama was part of the territory of the Old Southwest, to which American migration brought increased settlement leading to statehood in 1819.