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Up From Slavery: An Autobiography by Booker T. Washington, 1901

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Image of Booker T. Washington on frontispiece from Up from Slavery: An Autobiography, by Booker T. Washington, 1901.

Booker T. Washington (c.1856-1915) is considered one of the most influential African American leaders at the turn of the last century. Born a slave in Franklin County, Virginia, Washington helped found the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and was a national leader who preached a philosophy of self-help, racial solidarity and accommodation. Up From Slavery: An Autobiography, 1901, includes two major references to Richmond, Virginia. 




Special Collections and Archives' copy of Up From Slavery: An Autobiography (1901) by Booker T. Washington is inscribed. It reads “… with kind wishes of Booker T. Washington, April 14, 1901.” But to whom this copy was inscribed is unknown - that part of the inscription has been erased presumably by an earlier owner. The book was published in March of 1901.


In the closing passage of his autobiography, Washington refers to his February 11, 1901 visit to Richmond when he spoke before nearly 1,100 people at the Mozart Academy of Music which was located on Eighth Street between Grace and Franklin. The audience was integrated but African Americans were required to sit in the theater balcony. The Richmond Planet, then most popular and influential African American newspaper in Richmond, provided extensive news coverage of the event in its February 16, 1901 issue.

Booker T. Washington visited Richmond on more than one occasion. Two locations of major addresses he gave before large crowds are now buildings owned by VCU.

His first major address in the city took place on November 17, 1896 which was covered in the November 21, 1896 of Richmond Planet. It took place at what then the First African Baptist Church building at 301 College Street. It is now owned by VCU and is called Randolph Minor Hall.

His last major address in Richmond took place on November 7, 1913 at the City Auditorium, Cary and Linden Streets, which is now VCU's Cary Street Gym. The crowd was reported in the November 8, 1913 issue of the Richmond Times-Dispatch to number 4,000 and was attended by Virginia Gov. William Hodges Mann and other dignitaries.