Washington’s Up From Slavery

English Essay #10

Booker T. Washington was a black leader in the days after slavery. His goal was to make sure that blacks could get an education. He believed that if blacks could get a practical education and become respected citizens then eventually there would be civil equality.  Washington wrote an autobiography entitled Up From Slavery. Washington was a good writer and in his book he uses vivid word pictures to help get his point across.

One of the most memorable images he puts in your mind illustrates how poor many black people were in the first few years after slavery. Washington had just started a school called the Tuskegee institute and had not yet bought the plantation that would become it’s permanent home. Instead he was teaching in a shanty in the town of Tuskegee. The school (and people) at that point was so poor that he couldn’t afford anything better. The shanty was not much, Washington said that he had to have an umbrella during class if it was raining. This picture clearly illustrates how poor the school and surrounding community were.

Another interesting description makes the point that black people weren’t discriminated against because their skin was a different color. Black people were discriminated against because they were a different “race” and had a different background. The color of their skin was just a way of identifying them. In this story, Washington was taking an Indian back to his reservation because he was sick. Washington and his Indian companion had almost the same complexion. When they got to a hotel however they were informed that the hotel would let the Indian have a room but not Washington.

Washington also described what the Christmas celebration was like in Tuskegee. There was no work for a week and many people were drunk the whole time. The people bought expansive things even though they were poor and there were many drunk parties. Washington disapproved of this strongly. Besides the fact that the people were getting drunk, he thought that the whole thing was wasteful. These people were poor and they were spending way to much money on alcohol and luxuries.

A very important mental image describes Washington’s character as a leader very well. When he had purchased the plantation for the school, Washington wanted to grow a crop to help feed the students. The students did not want to do the work because they believed that they were getting an education in order to avoid manual labor. So Washington started to work by himself. When his students saw that Washington, who was a respected and educated man was not afraid to work, they began to work as well. This story shows how great a leader Booker T. Washington was.

Up From Slavery is a well written book. The images and descriptions that he uses add to his story and make it a more lively read.

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