Last Updated 07 Jul 2020

An Essay on the Views of Booker T Washington

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Born a slave, Booker T. Washington rose to become a commonly recognized leader of the Negro race in America. Washington continually strove to be successful and to show other black men and women how they too could raise themselves. Washington"s method of uplifting was education of the head, the hand, and the heart. From his founding of the Tuskegee Institute in 1881 to his death in 1915 Booker T. Washington exerted a tremendous influence on the people that surrounded him.

With his emphasis on industrial education Washington"s approach gave African-Americans hope of accomplishment and success. Growing up in Franklin County, Virginia, Booker was a young slave living on a plantation in a cold, dismal cabin with his mother being the plantation cook. He struggled through the hardships not unlike all the other slaves in the country. Booker T. Washington did not know his own father, which sounds very terrible, but was nothing unusual to young children of enslaved mothers. However Booker"s thoughts and feelings were different from what you"d suspect.

Booker states, " I do not find especial fault with him (his father). He was simply another unfortunate victim of the institution which the Nation unhappily had engrafted upon it at the time. "(4) Booker T. Washington was engulfed in labor throughout his adolescence and young boyhood days, joining his step-father in working in salt furnaces and coal-mines after the civil war. Of course the labor force in this country was predominately slaves, and after the civil war black people were paid little money to do some of the same work.

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The whole machinery of slavery was constructed as to cause labor, as a rule, to be looked upon as a sign of degradation and inferiority. The slave system took the spirit of self-reliance and self-help out of white people. Again, Booker T. Washington"s thoughts about the labor of black people differ from a traditional view. Washington feels that many white boys and girls never mastered a single trade or special line of productive industry. All the cooking, cleaning, everything was done by slaves, so when freedom came blacks were well off to begin a life of their own.

Except for book-learning and ownership of property, Washington felt positively of the long term investment made from all that hard labor. Washington envisioned a future for Black America where their hard work would earn them the respect of whites and pave the way for equality between the races. Washington had success on his mind for his whole life. There is not a moment in his life where he did not think of achieving a goal that would make him more successful and a better person. He used to picture in his mind how he would climb from the bottom of the ladder and one day be on the top, despite his race.

He did envy the white boy as you would think in his early part of his life, but once again his view changed from what is considered normal in my opinion. Washington states, " I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed. "(27) Washington felt that a Negro youth must work harder and must perform his tasks even better than a white youth in order to secure recognition, and in that also gaining more strength and confidence than a white youth.

Booker T. Washington was infatuated with learning ever since his childhood slave days. His intense desire to learn enabled him to master a Webster "blue-back" spelling book, and even led him to move ahead the hands of a clock at work so that he could get to his night school on time. Washington had a goal to go to Hampton where he can get a descent education, and his hard work and long journey paid off when he got admitted their due to his cleaning abilities.

This was an example of what I had stated earlier in that some of the labors he had done in his life as a slave and a worker paid off. At Hampton Washington met the principal, General Armstrong, and because of Mr. Armstrong, Washington saw the ideal he was to strive for, Washington said, " the noblest, rarest human being that it has ever been my privilege to meet. "(36) Washington was inspired by educational work and felt that General Armstrong was one of the men and women who went into the Negro schools at the close of the war to assist in lifting up his race.

The greatest benefit in my mind that Washington received from Hampton was his attitude toward education which changed form the common idea that education would free one from manual labor, to love of labor, self-reliance, and usefulness, an unselfishness that strives to do the most to make others useful and happy. When Washington experienced this himself, he could take what he learned and lead others through more practical education. The Reconstruction period from 1867-1878 helped fuel an urge that Washington had to educate his race.

He felt that blacks throughout the South looked to the Federal Government for everything, just like a child needing its mother. Also, that the Reconstruction policy, so far as it related to blacks, was in a large measure on a false foundation. Washington states, " In many cases it seemed to me that the ignorance of my race was being used as a tool with which to help white men into office. "(56) He felt that "general political agitation drew the attention of our people away from the more fundamental matters of perfecting themselves in the industries at their doors and in securing property. (56)

In July of 1881, when the Tuskegee Institute for colored people opened, Booker T. Washington was asked to be the principle. Washington tried to expand as much as possible during the years of the school, he wanted to accommodate as many kids as possible and in order to do that the school needed to be bigger, so he put the kids to work, building the school and stressing the importance of work to the kids. Washington felt the value of this work for self-confidence, esteem and disciplined conduct was immense.

How likely would a student write his initials on a wall if an older student next to him told him that he had built that wall. Washington felt Industrial education was a foundation. From it would come the professional positions of responsibility, wealth, and leisure. His way was to combine industrial training with mental and moral culture. He observed that the need to take care of one"s body and property and to have an economic foundation was more important than memorizing facts and readings of Latin and Greek.

That"s why Washington stressed cleanliness, personal neatness, also housekeeping and mechanical skills. Through proper training of head, hand, and heart, Tuskegee could develop teachers and leaders who would go out to people and change their lives. Industrial education had three functions: First, black students could work to pay their expenses at school. Secondly they could develop skills that would be of economic value when they left school. Third, and most important, was to teach economy, thrift, the dignity of labor, and provide a strong moral backbone.

Booker T. Washington had visions of equality for the black and white race, but his visions were somewhat different from that of the norm. He wanted to build up the black race slowly, knowing that equality was not to be achieved overnight. He taught blacks the power of knowledge and hard work to which they could gain a respect from their former masters of this country, and prove to them that they could live together and help out each other. He didn"t want to be better than the white man, he didn"t even dislike the white man, he just wanted to prove to the white man that a black man can have just as good of a heart.

Washington took the positive factors out of everything in life, whether good or bad, and paved the way for a non-segregated country. He has no remorse for anything that has happened to his race, infect he says it best when he states, "Ever since I have been old enough to think for myself, I have entertained the idea that, notwithstanding the cruel wrongs inflicted upon us, the black man got nearly as much out of slavery as the white man did. "(13)

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