Booker T. Washington – Civil Rights Activist

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Booker T. Washington: once a slave, beat down and told he could do nothing, accomplish nothing; now an example to all men, white and colored, raised above others. Why? Hard work and a desire to do good in this world.

Booker T. Washington was a young African American male born into the restrained life of Southern slavery. With the Union victory in the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, Washington’s family and African Americans in the United States found hope in a new opportunity, freedom from the shackles that held them back. Washington saw this freedom as an opportunity to pursue an education. Washington persevered this idea of an education with high hopes and ultimately landed himself a spot at Hampton National Institute. At Hampton, his experiences and beliefs in industrial education contributed to his successful foundation at the Tuskegee Institute. The institute went on to become the main influence for African American education in the South. Booker T. Washington was an authoritative voice in the African American community following the Civil War.

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In his autobiography, Up from Slavery, Washington presents his personal accounts of his life, his achievements, and struggles. Washington overcame many obstacles throughout his life and became perhaps the most prominent African American leader of his time. In this autobiography, Washington argues that African Americans should attain a trade skill that enables them to find employment through meeting the economic needs of the South. By doing so, that would also lead to gaining morals, character and overall gaining more knowledge. His arguments are supported through his personal accounts as a student at Hampton Institute and as an administrator at the Tuskegee Institute.

Throughout the book, Up From Slavery, Washington presents a reoccurring theme of the value of education. He emphasizes this idea throughout his autobiography, because as a slave, he had been denied the right to learn and once he was free, like nearly every one of his race, he soaked up learning like a sponge. That is not the only thing Booker focuses on. Also, in the autobiography he introduces the nobility of work. Booker firmly believed that no education was complete without learning a trade. He believed that there was tremendous value in work and that his race would never rise up without being able to work a trade in their communities that was needed by every race. Booker believed that success is measured by the obstacles we have to overcome to reach it and not what we have attained. Mr. Washington felt that a man’s character was built by how many walls he had to climb over before he reached his goal. It was the process of achievement that was more important than the finished product.

Washington is writing to an audience that consisted of white Southerners and white Northerners,

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