Up From Slavery

Booker T. Washington

Booker Taliaferro Washington is the central figure and author of Up From Slavery, and the text details his progress from being born as a slave to becoming one of America’s foremost educational thinkers and… (read full character analysis)

Washington’s Mother

Washington’s mother, who remains nameless in the narrative, is credited for her devotion to her family and her support of Washington’s educational aspirations during and after slavery. Washington’s mother was born into slavery and… (read full character analysis)

Washington’s Stepfather

Washington’s stepfather is not named in the narrative, but he is the reason that the family moves to West Virginia upon Emancipation. It is unclear how his stepfather and his mother met, but we know… (read full character analysis)

General Samuel C. Armstrong

General Armstrong, a retired Union Army general turned philanthropist and educator, is Washington’s mentor and personal idol. Armstrong is the founder of the Hampton Institute, one of the first black institutions for higher learning… (read full character analysis)

General J. F. B. Marshall

General Marshall is another retired Union Army benefactor of the Hampton Institute, and he expresses a specific interest in Washington’s education. Marshal allows Washington to continue at the institute on credit until Washington can… (read full character analysis)
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Mrs. Ruffner

Mrs. Viola Ruffner is wife of General Ruffner, the owner of the West Virginia salt-furnace and coal mine that employed many newly freed black Americans. Washington was employed by the Ruffners as a live-in… (read full character analysis)

Miss Mackie

Ms. Mary F. Mackie is the head teacher at the Hampton Institute, and a Northern white woman from an established family who had migrated South to work for the Institute. She conducts Washington’s “sweeping”… (read full character analysis)

Olivia A. Davidson

Miss Davidson, Washington’s second wife, is a teacher at the Tuskegee Institute. Washington admires her for her dedication to the school, as well as her dedication to hard work in her fundraising efforts. He… (read full character analysis)

Miss Margaret James Murray (“Mrs. Washington”)

Miss Murray is Washington’s third wife, who he married in 1893. They met at Tuskegee when she was a teacher and a lady principal. Miss Murray’s personality and appearance are not specifically mentioned, but… (read full character analysis)

W. E. B. Du Bois

Although Du Bois only appears once and he is mentioned only in passing, he figures prominently into the historical and critical reception of Washington’s ideology. Du Bois and Washington were public political and philosophical… (read full character analysis)
Minor Characters
John Washington
John Washington is Booker T. Washington’s brother. He is simply described as being generous and hard working. With the help of Washington’s instruction, John was able to get an education at the Hampton Institute and eventually serve as Superintendent of Industries at Tuskegee.
Amanda Washington
Booker’s sister. She was born in slavery and moves with the family to West Virginia. She does not play a large role in the narrative, but Washington does suggest that she was not prepared to help with the upkeep of the house after the death of their mother.
James Washington
James was adopted into the Washington family after they moved to West Virginia. Not much information is given about James, but Washington helped to educate him and secure him a position as postmaster at Tuskegee.
Ms. Nathalie Lord
Miss Nathalie Lord is an instructor at Hampton who helps Washington to refine his skills in public speaking. It is under her instruction that Washington first realizes that he has the potential to become an excellent public speaker.
Mr. George W. Campbell
George Campbell is the ex-slave owner from Tuskegee who, along with Mr. Lewis Adams, wrote General Armstrong requesting a teacher to lead the black school in Tuskegee. Washington believes that Mr. Campbell, despite his former slave holdings, is a kind, honest, and hard-working man.
Mr. Lewis Adams
Mr. Adams is an ex-slave in Tuskegee who wrote to General Armstrong with Mr. Campbell requesting a teacher for the black school. Washington uses Mr. Adams as a model of the potential of vocational education by attributing Mr. Adams’ mental prowess to his ability to work with his hands.
General Ruffner
General Ruffner is the owner of the salt-furnace and coal mine in West Virginia and husband of Mrs. Viola Ruffner, Washington’s employer.
Fannie N. Smith
Fannie Smith is Washington’s first wife, and is mentioned in connection with the birth of his first daughter, Portia M. Washington.
Portia M. Washington
Portia is Washington’s oldest daughter by his first wife Fannie Smith. She does not figure strongly into the narrative, but Washington mentions that she excelled at dressmaking and music performance.
Baker Taliaferro Washington
Baker is Washington’s oldest son by his second wife, Olivia Davidson. He does not figure strongly into the narrative, but Washington mentions that he excelled at brickmaking at a young age and greatly enjoyed working in the industries.
Ernest Davidson Washington
Ernest is Washington’s youngest son by his second wife, Olivia Davidson. He does not figure strongly into the narrative, but Washington mentions that from a young age Ernest aspired to be a doctor and spent much of his childhood learning at the Tuskegee doctor’s office.
Andrew Carnegie
Andrew Carnegie is a famous philanthropist and steel tycoon who expresses interest in and ultimately donates to the Tuskegee Institute after Washington’s “Atlanta Exposition Address.”
President Grover Cleveland
Washington attracts the attention of President Cleveland after his “Atlanta Exposition Address.” President Cleveland admires Washington’s conservative stance on racial progress and uplift, and the two men develop a friendship. Washington admires Cleveland’s interest in race relations and his apparent dedication to helping black Americans.
President William McKinley
Washington implored President McKinley to visit Tuskegee as a sign of good faith amidst some tense national race riots. McKinley agreed, and he and Washington strike up a friendship. Washington describes McKinley as being kind, considerate, and deeply concerned about the plight of black Americans.