THIS is not a biography in the ordinary sense. The exhaustive "Life and Letters of Booker T. Washington" remains still to be compiled. In this more modest work we have simply sought to present and interpret the chief phases of the life of this man who rose from a slave boy to be the leader of ten millions of people and to take his place for all time among America's great men. In fact, we have not even touched upon his childhood, early training, and education, because we felt the story of those early struggles and privations had been ultimately well told in his own words in "Up from Slavery." This autobiography, however, published as it was fifteen years before his death, brings the story of his life only to the threshold of his greatest achievements. In this book we seek to give the full fruition of his life's work. Each chapter is complete in itself. Each presents a complete, although by no means exhaustive, picture of some phase of his life.
We take no small satisfaction in the fact that we were personally selected by Booker Washington himself for this task. He considered us qualified to produce what he wanted: namely, a record of his struggles and achievements at once accurate and readable, put in permanent form for the information of the public. He believed that such a record could best be furnished by his confidential associate, working in collaboration with a trained and experienced writer, sympathetically interested in the welfare of the Negro race. This, then, is what we have tried to do and the way we have tried to do it.
We completed the first four chapters before Mr. Washington's death, but he never read them. In fact, it was our wish, to which he agreed, that he should not read what we had written until its publication in book form.
Emmett J. Scott,Lyman Beecher Stowe.
IT IS not hyperbole to say that Booker T. Washington was a great American. For twenty years before his death he had been the most useful, as well as the most distinguished, member of his race in the world, and one of the most useful, as well as one of the most distinguished, of American citizens of any race.
Eminent though his services were to the people of his own color, the white men of our Republic were almost as much indebted to him, both directly and indirectly. They were indebted to him directly, because of the work he did on behalf of industrial education for the Negro, thus giving impetus to the work for the industrial education of the White Man, which is, at least, as necessary; and, moreover, every successful effort to turn the thoughts of the natural leaders of the Negro race into the fields of business endeavor, of agricultural effort, of every species of success in private life, is not only to their advantage, but to the advantage of the White Man, as tending to remove the friction and trouble that inevitably come throughout the South at this time in any Negro district where the Negroes turn for their advancement primarily to political life.
The indirect indebtedness of the White Race to Booker T. Washington is due to the simple fact that here in America we are all in the end going up or down together; and therefore, in the long run, the man who makes a substantial contribution toward uplifting any part of the community has helped to uplift all of the community. Wherever in our land the Negro remains uneducated, and liable to criminal suggestion, it is absolutely certain that the whites will themselves tend to tread the paths of barbarism; and wherever we find the colored people as a whole engaged in successful work to better themselves, and respecting both themselves and others, there we shall also find the tone of the white community high.
The patriotic white man with an interest in the welfare of this country is almost as heavily indebted to Booker T. Washington as the colored men themselves.
If there is any lesson, more essential than any other, for this country to learn, it is the lesson that the enjoyment of rights should be made conditional upon the performance of duty. For one failure in the history of our country which is due to the people not asserting their rights, there are hundreds due to their not performing their duties. This is just as true of the White Man as it is of the Colored Man. But it is a lesson even more important to be taught the Colored Man, because the Negro starts at the bottom of the ladder and will never develop the strength to climb even a single rung if he follow the lead of those who dwell only upon their rights and not upon their duties....