Up From Slavery Book Report
Book report on Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington
Booker T. Washington was born a slave in Virginia and had experienced hardships of slavery since his childhood. As a slave child, Booker was deprived of many things most children possess. He was not familiar with the very notion of what family is. He did not know who his ancestors and his own father were. His mother had no time for the training of her children and they had never sat down to the table together to eat a meal. Moreover, they did not have what to eat. He mentions that once his mother awakened her children at night to feed them with a chicken. It was something unusual and therefore became one of his strongest memories. As a child, Booker was not allowed to have clothes and shoes. The only garment he could wear was a flax shirt and the only shoes he had were made of the wood. He recalls his suffering when wearing both, but still he had no choice at that time. Booker was also deprived of adequate living conditions. They had to live in the little cabin, with no floor and glass windows. There was no furniture in there; they slept on the floor and the only thing that allowed calling this place home was a cabin fireplace.
Nevertheless, Booker did not spend much time in the cabin. Most of his day was occupied with different kinds of labor. Thus, he was deprived even of the leisure time. He did not go in for sports as modern children do and he did not play any kinds of children`s games. To add more to his misery, he had no schooling too. Moreover, the education was considered as something harmful for the slaves, because it could make him want freedom.
One would fairly think that under such horrible conditions Booker was bound to hate his masters as a cause of his misery. Nevertheless, he did not despise them. When talking about white masters and mistresses, he speaks only in warm words. He mentions how the sympathy of the slaves was shown when the two young masters were brought home wounded. Blacks wanted to assist all help they could. It is even hard to believe that some of the slaves begged for the privilege of sitting up at night to nurse their wounded masters. Booker explains this kind of attitude because of a kindly nature of the black people. In turn, white masters and mistresses consider their slaves trustworthy. For instance, on some occasions when male representatives of the family had to leave their house for a night, they allowed their slaves to sleep in the house. Slaves appreciated that display of a trust very much. Sleeping in the “big house” during the absence of the master was thought to be an honor. Therefore, not a single slave was determined to harm defenseless women to take vengeance for his hardships.
In the context of the war, one would expect that the attitude of the slaves would change towards their masters. However, anything of a kind happened. Booker insists that the slaves were not familiar with a feeling of bitterness related to the bounds of slavery. Warm attitude of the former slaves to their masters remained even after the Civil war when slavery was abolished. While black people were happy to hear that they are free to go and do whatever they want, they understood they would miss their masters. Only after great rejoicing, thanksgiving, and wild scenes of ecstasy the feeling of bitterness came. Slaves felt pity for their former owners. They could not help their attachment to the masters, mistresses and especially their children. Fairly enough spending so many years together, they had a feeling of being one big family with their masters. Since then, Booker had been always treating whites as his friends. He intended to spread the idea of equality and unity between two races and that idea became his life mission afterwards. Later he admitted that he had completely got rid of any ill feeling toward the whites for anything they may have inflicted upon the black race. He had never received a single personal insult from the whites and was treated with respect.
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After getting freedom and even before that, Booker was always full of some ambitions. His two greatest ambitions were to get education and to get money for that. Though he does not say it, his hidden ambition was to prove that he is worth of something, even being black. Since his childhood, he determined to get enough education to read common books and newspapers. After the abolishment, his dream was above to come true. At that time, there was a school opened for the colored children in the village. Of course, Booker went there. Because of the day labor, he had to attend night school that he found very useful. More over, it gave him faith in the night-school idea, which he developed later at Hampton and Tuskegee.
While others blacks in the village lost all their ambition to do anything except a coal mining, Booker still longed for more. In his dreams, he saw himself as a Congressman, Governor, Bishop, or President. He envied white boys who did not have any obstacles due to their race. He imagined how he would act under such circumstances; how he would begin at the bottom and kept rising until he would reach the highest round of success.
His next ambition, with which he was “on fire constantly” was to go to Hampton. He clearly understood that he would need a lot of money for that, so the question was where to get them. Being despaired he agreed to be hired by a dreadful woman. Every colored boy was afraid to work for her, but booker did not have a choice. Finally, he even managed to find a common language with her and earned some money enough for the start. At Hampton Institute Booker faced with prejudiced attitude because of the color of his skin. For some time, his teacher did not agree or refuse to take him to the school, so he felt as on probation term. To be accepted, he continued to impress her in all the ways he could with his worthiness. In the meantime he saw her admitting other students, and that made him dishearten and envious. Besides the moral discomfort, he felt he was in the constant lack of money. He had some money from his brother John, but it was not enough to pay for his board. Therefore, he had to work as a janitor, but he was doing it perfectly. Still, when he left Hampton (at the end of his first year), he owed the institution certain sum of money and he was not able to work it out. Thus, his next ambition was to save money in the summer to pay his debt. It was more like a debt of honor to him that speaks of his honorable soul. During his last year at Hampton, he devoted all his free time to hard study. His goal and ambition was to hit the “honor roll” of Commencement speakers. After graduating Hampton, he becomes waiter. Used to hard study, Booker decides to learn the business of waiting, and is promoted within a few weeks. With that money, he became able to realize his new ambition to help his brother get education, as well.
His next target was to improve race relations between whites and blacks. He had got a great opportunity for that when he left to Tuskegee to take care of the local school. He found Tuskegee a place where black people outnumbered white by about three to one. At the same time, he discovered that in general, the relations between the two races were pleasant. Nevertheless “pleasant relations” were not enough for Booker. He strived to destroy prejudices white people had towards the blacks.. White people were still thinking that educated blacks are supposed to be the men who were determined to live by their wits. They could not even imagine another result of education for colored men. Booker managed to change that kind of attitude by demonstrating striking results in blacks’ labor and particularly in making bricks. School’s bricks soon become in great demand and the whites were ought to admit blacks’ education is worth something. That helped to lay the foundation for the pleasant relations that have continued to exist between black and the white people in Tuskegee, and then extended throughout the South.
Another thing that helped to improve race relation
Another thing that helped to improve race relations between whites and blacks was his public speaking career. Booker confesses that had never planned spend his life in public speaking. He was a man of action so he preferred to do things instead of to talk about doing them. Nevertheless, his surrounding noticed his oratorical skills early. His public speaking career began in Madison where he was invited to deliver an address. Since then he started promoting the solutions for the general problem of the races. He did not say a single abusive word about Southern whites and their oppression of the blacks. Moreover, he talked about the praiseworthy things that they had done. It was his style never to talk about something bad white people done. In his address at Madison, he talked about the policy to bring blacks and whites together and to cultivate friendly relations between them. He insisted on the free suffrage for the colored people, but he also talked about the responsibility it accompanied. He encouraged the Negro to develop and improve, to make the most profit to his community for the future of the entire race.
After the good acceptance of the speech at Madison, Booker realized he wanted to speak directly to a representative Southern white audience. Therefore, he took the nearest opportunity when the international meeting of Christian Workers was held at Atlanta in 1893. This address lasted for five minutes, but he made quite an impression on Southern and Northern whites. After that, he became more in demand and he continued to deliver speeches in different places. Most of them before the Northern whites were made for getting funds to support the school. Another delivered before the colored people were made for impressing them of the importance of industrial and technical education in addition to academic and religious training.
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Still his most famous speech took place at the International Exposition, at Atlanta, on September 18, 1895. It gave him a National reputation. There he talked about ridding the South of the race question and making friends between the two races, and encouraged the material and intellectual growth of both races. He insisted on the basic rights of ballot, property, free access to industry, economy to succeed as a race. Booker appealed to whites to make friends with Negroes whose habits, fidelity and love they know. He was sure that the whites would never regret for cooperating with the most patient, faithful, and law-abiding people. He also noticed that whites are indebted to the blacks for the progress of the South.
Still what mattered more to him was the progress of his race. In the years following the Civil War, he suggested many ideas for blacks to improve their lives. What he wanted the most for his people was to live happily and enjoy all the privileges the white people had. This desire became even stronger after he left the country and went to Europe to get some rest. To improve the lives of blacks, Booker believed they need education to vote correctly and avoid cheating by white men. He wanted his people to learn to do something well to be recognized and rewarded for that. He was deeply convinced in the success of his race in proportion of learning doing something in an uncommon manner and making its services of indispensable value. To improve their lives, blacks should contribute to the community in such a way that the people will feel that their presence is necessary to the happiness and well-being of the community.
After being in France
After being in France, he understood that thanks to its morality black race will exercise greater economy in the future. Still before that, it would continue passing through the severe American crucible.
Black people would need to prove their patience, forbearance, perseverance, power to endure wrong, to resist temptations, to economize, to acquire some skills and use them. During the next half-century and more they will be expected to show their competence capacity and succeed in commerce; they would have to learn to disregard the superficial for the real and be the servant of all.
The fact that Booker T. Washington was a far-seeing man is proved by the relevance of his educational ideas for today. Today most of the students are encouraged to go to the college and get BA degree there. Thus, there are three harmful elements of it: idealization of BA degree, promise of college access and the cultivation of remediation. In chase of the well-paid job many students enter colleges even when they are not good enough for it. But the truth is that those who have AA certificates are also in a great demand with a tendency to grow even further. In the new labor market technicians will be in even greater demand.
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In the times of Booker Washington it was called industrial education. He strived for giving his students practical skills so they could get a job anywhere. Unfortunately, the value of practical profession has decreased in 21st century. Students are inclined to believe that they do not need to have good marks to get a good job. Comparing to that, Booker selected most talented and skillful students to help them become professionals. He stimulated and encouraged students so that majority of them studied well. It appears that Booker would never suggest anything like remedial classes. Now such courses prolong the studying process and students have to study for six or more years to get BA degree. To avoid this students have to know all their perspectives at the college. Awareness of Booker students sets a good example for modern students in knowing their rights and duties. With they they will all successfully become who they want to become.