|The national press treated the speech as a
major event and spread the word abroad. The embryonic Black press was more restrained.
Washington said that "one lecture bureau offered me fifty thousand dollars or two
hundred dollars a night and expenses."
President Grover Cleveland thanked Washington for a copy of the speech and said
that "the Exposition would be fully justified if it did not do more than furnish the
opportunity for its delivery."
Hosannas descended on Washington from all parts of the country. At its very next
commencement, Harvard University made him its first Black honorary degree recipient. He
appeared before groups such as the Union League Club, the white YMCA chapters and the
Chautauqua Assembly. While Black church groups offered him token stipends for his
appearance, he was able to earn $300-$400 per night from similar white groups, most of
which went to aid Tuskegee Institute.
He was called "a Negro Moses," leading his people to a happy accommodation
between the races.
The white public wanted to know the man behind the speech. Washington obliged by writing two autobiographies two years apart. The first, The Story of My Life and Work appeared in 1899, a hastily put together ghost-written work selling 75,000 copies in four years. Written to be a money maker, the second autobiography Up From Slavery was published in 1901, based on a series of articles first appearing in the Outlook Magazine with its 100,000 subscribers. For Tuskegee, Washington's speech highlighted the campus and his autobiographies built it. Northern industrialists and financiers superseded religious proselytizers as the major source of private funding for Black education.
Up From Slavery opened the coffers of America's first generation of multimillionaires. John D. Rockefeller, the oil baron, began giving $10,000 annually to Tuskegee. George Eastman, founder of the Kodak Camera company began contributing $5,000, then $10,000, annually to Tuskegee. Andrew Carnegie also made annual contributions of $10,000 a year, threw in a $20,000 library and in 1903 attempted to give Washington $150,000 for his personal use, but fearing negative reactions to this offer, suggested that it be placed in an endowment fund, with the interest from it to go to him as salary.