An Elitist Program?

Was Booker T. Washington’s education program for the blacks (ex-slaves) an elitist program? I do not believe it was. Booker wanted the blacks to be respected in society, not above the whites.

Washington said that they could be respected through their productivity in a trade. He said, “You need to do a common trade in an uncommon way.” In other words, make yourself indispensable to someone else. He said that people like useful, productive workers in society. Therefore, Booker taught his students to be responsible, efficient, able to effectively perform a trade, etc…. He believed this would allow the blacks to be respected in society.

 

Memorable Images

One of the memorable images from the autobiography of Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery, was education. Education for the blacks (ex-slaves) is really the main point of the entire book. The freed black slaves had a great desire to have an education. Often, even if they could not yet perform a proper trade they would have learned some Latin and Greek.

Another memorable image was the fact that the freed blacks would, according to Booker, choose new names once they got freed. Because most slaves would be called by their first names their last names would often be forgotten. Therefore, most ex-slaves would take the name of their former owner. They would also pick a middle initial, which would be related to any name they not had whatsoever. (For example: James K. Little.) These names they called their “entitles.”

These two things were what stood out to me the most.

Booker T. Washington and Slavery

Booker T. Washington (born c. 1858) had been a slave until the age of ten. He became an influential educator, orator and author. In his autobiography, Up From Slavery, he described several evils of the slave system. One was that it did not encourage family unity on the part of the slaves.

Another was that the white people would lose their motivation to master a trade. This led to a dependency by the white people on the slaves after the abolition of slavery.

A third evil was that the slaves would not be educated.

Fourth, because the slaves did not own the property they worked on, they didn’t care about it very much. Therefore, most properties fell into disarray.

Lastly, the slave system encouraged theft on the part of the slaves.