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Other titles in the Classics in Black Studies series:
My Larger Education: Chapters from My Experience (Classics in Black Studies)by Booker T. Washington
Synopses & Reviews
The leading African American leader in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was Booker T. Washington. His conciliatory stance toward the white majority, preference for working behind the scenes rather than public protest to remedy discrimination, and emphasis on education in the practical trades for the black masses as opposed to a liberal arts education, all won favor with prominent white politicians and businessmen. Among many black intellectuals, however, Washington was a controversial figure. They criticized his lack of public emphasis on civil rights and felt that his leadership style almost guaranteed a bleak future of segregation and second-class status for blacks.
In this book, a sequel to his famous autobiography, Up from Slavery (1901), he lays out his philosophy of hard work and cooperative attitudes in persuasive and reasonable terms. He describes the men and experiences that had a lasting influence on his thinking and the impressive achievements of his Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama.
He also respectfully disagrees with his critics among black intellectuals. Chief among these was W. E. B. Du Bois, who criticized Washingtons slow, patient methods and passive stance in the teeth of so much injustice. Indeed, reading Washingtons account, one would never know that in the 1890s lynching reached an all-time high, that blacks were effectively disenfranchised in their own communities, and that the grip of poverty among African Americans was virtually ensured by the white power structure.
However controversial his career, My Larger Education is still worth reading as an important document in African American history, and Washingtons emphasis on economic empowerment for blacks is a continuing theme to this day.
Book News Annotation:
Washington's emphasis on teaching practical trades to African Americans rather than promoting a liberal education was both appropriate and reassuring to whites. To many African American intellectuals, however, his deference to whites was a betrayal of the possibilities of power and prestige. Further, they argued, denying the vast majority of African Americans a higher education relegated them to second-class status and continued segregation. In this sequel to his 1901 autobiography Up From Slavery, Washington responded to his critics, asserting that the lessons he learned from building his schools, working with the media, consorting with the like of Theodore Roosevelt, travelling in Europe, and meeting the common man taught him more than theories that were interesting intellectual exercises but had relatively little practical purpose in what he wanted to achieve.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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