Thursday, February 2, 2012

BLACK HISTORY MONTH: Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washingon

For the month of February, in honor of Black History Month, every Thursday I will review a book that should be a staple in not just every Black American's home, but everyone's home period.  These books are considered classics (at least in my community) and why they are not requirements for reading in school I will never know. 

Up from Slavery
by Booker T. Washington

I want to start the week off with the excellent story of Booker T. Washington:

Nineteenth-century African American businessman, activist, and educator Booker Taliaferro Washington's Up from Slavery is one of the greatest American autobiographies ever written. Its mantras of black economic empowerment, land ownership, and self-help inspired generations of black leaders, including Marcus Garvey, Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, and Louis Farrakhan. In rags-to-riches fashion, Washington recounts his ascendance from early life as a mulatto slave in Virginia to a 34-year term as president of the influential, agriculturally based Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. From that position, Washington reigned as the most important leader of his people, with slogans like "cast down your buckets," which emphasized vocational merit rather than the academic and political excellence championed by his contemporary rival W.E.B. Du Bois. Though many considered him too accommodating to segregationists, Washington, as he said in his historic "Atlanta Compromise" speech of 1895, believed that "political agitation alone would not save [the Negro]," and that "property, industry, skill, intelligence, and character" would prove necessary to black Americans' success. The potency of his philosophies are alive today in the nationalist and conservative camps that compose the complex quilt of black American society. (from Amazon)

Immediately after reading this book and putting it down, I came to the conclusion that I needed to stop complaining!  The things that these people went through to obtain an education.  The focus, drive, and ambition is amirable.  To read about what people went through just so individuals like myself could become whatever I wanted to be is.... I cannot find words to express the gratitude I have for them.  I feel that after reading this book one should be encourage to set their minds to great things. 

One thing that kept coming up in my mind was how I would feel to not know my actual birthday or even the year I was born!!!

Born a slave, for some reason Mr. Washington's view of whites surprised me.  He lacked resentment towards them (at least that is my perspective from the reading).  He had enough confidence in himself and others of his race to believe that if we take our own destiny in our hands, there is nothing we could not do!!

For me I find it hard to believe that he had no racial tension towards others or that he could live in a "color blind" world during that time.  However I my small criticisms of the book are overweighed by the message he was trying to give.  Nevertheless, there are tons of articles written when it comes to Mr. Washington, his views and how some felt he was an "Uncle Tom" to our race.  I will leave that up to everyone else to decide on their own.  Did I agree with everything he said (or the things he lacked to say)?  No.  Does that mean that EVERYONE should not read this book? No!!  It upsets me when society protray black americans as being of the same mind.  We all have our own opinions and views.  We have them today and apparently we had them back in the day.  Us as a whole cannot be fit into one box. 

Lastly, this quote from Mr. Washington sums up everything, "I have begun everything with the idea that I could succeed, and I never had much patience with the multitudes of people who are always ready to explain why one cannot succeed."

Next week..... The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B DuBois (apparently the "contrast" of Mr. Washington's book)


Shannon @ Reading Has Purpose said...

This book actually was required reading for us during freshman orientation (Tuskegee University). And after I read it, I felt exactly like you. What the heck am I complaining about! Its an awesome book and I plan to re-read it and post a review on it as well.

Book Snob Wannabe said...

Cannot wait!