Booker T. Washington wrote Up From Slavery as a central part of his strategy for the equality of both Native and African Americans. Its title is not just a description of his own life but an exhortation to the reader. His philosophy of self improvement through education resonated so strongly with the society of the time that even early reviews recommended the book as strongly for white people as for black, a judgment which still holds today.
Slavery itself was actually a relatively short part of Washington's life, and the same is true of the book. The effects are fascinating however, for example the young Booker did not even know his own age. From the third chapter the focus is on Washington's rise from slavery, with a great focus on education and educational projects.
Critics consider Washington to have been too timid in his search for equality and too full of egotism in the writing of this book, but there is no doubt that he was an important figure in the early civil rights movement and many have found inspiration in his words. No matter your race or class this is an inspirational text and should be considered required reading for any American, or indeed anyone with an interest in civil rights.