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Up from History - by Robert J Norrell (Paperback)

Up from History - by  Robert J Norrell (Paperback) - image 1 of 1
Up from History - by  Robert J Norrell (Paperback) - image 1 of 1
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About this item


Number of Pages: 508

Genre: Biography + Autobiography

Sub-Genre: Historical

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Belknap Press

Author: Robert J Norrell

Language: English

Street Date: April 30, 2011
TCIN: 78569028
UPC: 9780674060371
Item Number (DPCI): 247-34-9817


It is hard to think of a historical figure more in need of biographical rescue. Yet Washington is an awkward challenge for the contemporary scholar. He is so thoroughly stigmatized as politically incorrect that rescuing him could seem a political act in itself, and even a balanced book could be dismissed as a polemic. But Robert J. Norrell, in his remarkable new biography, Up from History, gets around this problem the old-fashioned way: by scrupulously excavating the facts of his subject's life and then carefully situating him in his own era...Today the brilliance with which he achieved the near impossible is forgotten, while the unfair presumption of his racial capitulation is ubiquitous. Up from History will go far in correcting this. I thought I knew something of Washington's complexity before reading this book. And I had always been fascinated by Dr. Bledsoe in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, a darkly ironic sendup of Washington as a merciless pragmatist. But here we see the real man at his interminable labors: incessantly fund-raising for Tuskegee in the North, mapping out political strategy with liberal white philanthropists in Boston and New York, fighting with Northern black elites one day and with white nationalist Southerners the next, and then, back at Tuskegee, riding out on horseback in the early morning to micromanage the college's agricultural operations... Washington understood that his people also dwelled inside a crucible. Norrell's rich portrait makes clear that Washington never stopped seeing himself as the leader of his people. How to help them live in such circumstances? His informing idea was that responsibility--hard work, education, the moral life--brought a degree of freedom and independence even in oppression. The pursuit of excellence would bring blacks an economic currency in the larger world, and thus, ultimately, respect and equality. With more fearlessness than any '60s black nationalist, he saw black Americans as a free-standing people and asked them to compete openly with all others...Washington understood that the loss of good faith was the worst of all things, and when black America was at risk of this, he was the shepherd. Up from History gives back to America one of its greatest heroes.-- (02/15/2009)
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