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Up From Slavery, By Booker T. Washington

1346 words - 5 pages

Booker T. Washington was a young black male born into the shackles of Southern slavery. With the Union victory in the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, Washington’s family and blacks in the United States found hope in a new opportunity, freedom. Washington saw this freedom as an opportunity to pursue a practical education. Through perseverance and good fortunes, Washington was able to attain that education at Hampton National Institute. At Hampton, his experiences and beliefs in industrial education contributed to his successful foundation at the Tuskegee Institute. The institute went on to become the beacon of light for African American education in the South. Booker T. Washington was an influential voice in the African American community following the Civil War. In his autobiography, Up from Slavery, Washington outlines his personal accounts of his life, achievements, and struggles. In the autobiography, Washington fails to address the struggle of blacks during Reconstruction to escape the southern stigma of African Americans only being useful for labor. However, Washington argues that blacks should attain an industrial education that enables them to find employment through meeting the economic needs of the South, obtaining moral character and intelligence, and embracing practical labor. His arguments are supported through his personal accounts as a student at Hampton Institute and as an administrator at the Tuskegee Institute. Washington’s autobiography is a great source of insight into the black education debate following Reconstruction.
The first argument Booker T. Washington makes is that blacks should seek an education that provides them with the opportunity to gain employment by meeting the specific job demands in the South. In the book, Washington gives account of the school’s difficulty in figuring out a method to make their own bricks. After much trial an error, the school discovers an excellent method to brick making. The school was so successful that white people who had no interest in the school came to them because they made good bricks. Washington states in his work “The making of these bricks caused many white residents of the neighborhood to begin to feel that the education of the Negro was not making him worthless, but that in educating our students we were adding something to the wealth and comfort of the community.” Washington felt that the students’ quality of bricks changed the white residents’ perception of blacks in the community. This is the key to Washington’s belief system of industrial education. In addition, Washington details how his students have gone on to obtain many jobs as brick makers in the South. He successfully makes his point that industrial education can have a positive impact on black employment and race relations in the South. If students were only exposed to book knowledge, they may have missed out on these opportunities. He also goes on to support his claim that...

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