There's no doubt that Booker T. Washington's accomplishments are more than admirable. He determined to make something of himself and achieved success in a world that only wished to see him fail. His success came from hard work mainly, and the force of will to swallow every slight and setback and turn it into motivation to succeed. But there was also his patron, General Armstrong, who helped him along. This helping hand from a white man, and later his willingness to work with the white political mainstream make him a less admired figure today than, say, Frederick Douglass.
Leaving these questions aside, though, his narrative glosses over a lot. It was written while he was still in the middle of his work as the headmaster and head fundraiser for the Tuskegee Institute. Since his job was to make tours of his Northern (white) supporters' homes and massage them for money for the Institute, the book is fundraising tool: inspirational, uplifting, with admiring mentions of helpful patrons. Louis Harlan's excellent introduction points toward a more fascinating and more complete story about a Washington who kept an iron grip on the black political machine, who orchestrated secret machinations to discredit his rivals for power in the black community, and worked (again secretly) to legally challenge Jim Crow laws. I'd like to read more about that Booker T. Washington.