Response to “Up From Slavery”

This story is an autobiography by a slave, during the transition from slavery to freedom. Booker T. Washington, a young boy who was born to a plantation cook, moves away with his family during the emancipation, to work in a coal mine. His dreams of education push him to go to Hampton Institute, finding his way by working for food and board. He gets his education, and begins to teach others after returning to his hometown. He also starts to study speech, and gives speeches to his students in the community. He meets inspirational people, and learns about respect and discipline during the first half of his life, which have a major effect on his later half.

Washington, with his wife by his side, started the Tuskegee Institute. This school was designed to give the flailing negro population with the skills to enter the white man’s world. Right at the time of the Industrial Revolution, this school served thousands of students. It taught former slaves proper manners, dress, and etiquette– this sort of education was particularly needed for those who had grown up as slaves. The book shows the progression of not just Washington’s progression from slavery, but it also details society’s climb out of prejudice and into acceptance.

Booker T. Washington, an educated and persistent man, made his way from sleeping under sidewalks, to being a president of a highly-regarded school, and he trained others of his race to do the same. He helped to raise up a generation of oppressed and impoverished negroes, into men and women to be respected. His efforts, among those of others, formed the modern-day views of the African-American race. Although his book was long and boring at times, Booker told a good story of his life.

The post-Civil War novel explains in great depth the society of the Reconstruction Period, which ended around the 1900’s. Compared to the other Civil War novels I’ve read for this class, this one was different. It wasn’t told by a soldier, a child, or a emboldened woman– it was written by a distinguished member of the higher social class, who had come out from the deep South. He told it in a very hopeful way– during his life he was constantly surprised by how much honor and celebration he received, despite his race. It speaks to the upward trend of society after the Civil War, and is a great testimony of the change America underwent during this period.

If you are interested in the Civil War and want to learn about it, this is a very informative read. It is not, however, written to entertain, or even to be great literature. So it’s kind of dry. But, it was written with the words of a public speaker, who was an inspiration to every member of society, white and black, during his time.

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