Up From Slavery Themes from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotesOver the course of Up From Slavery, Washington develops the idea and ideal of dignity through labor. For Washington, the gravest aspect of the institution of slavery is the denigration of labor for both blacks and whites. Because the enslaved had no personal investment or return on their labor, they did not complete their work with an attitude toward improvement. Likewise, whites, largely deprived of meaningful labor, were robbed of the ability to achieve self-sufficiency. In both races, this produced personalities and characters that seek to escape labor. Washington emphasizes labor as the only way to make oneself useful in an interdependent, modern society. Throughout the whole of Up From Slavery , Washington searches for and obtains work.
Up From Slavery - (Audiobook)
What is the theme in Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington?
Up from Slavery is the autobiography of American educator Booker T. Washington — The book describes his personal experience of having to work to rise up from the position of a slave child during the Civil War , to the difficulties and obstacles he overcame to get an education at the new Hampton Institute , to his work establishing vocational schools—most notably the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama —to help black people and other disadvantaged minorities learn useful, marketable skills and work to pull themselves, as a race, up by the bootstraps. He reflects on the generosity of both teachers and philanthropists who helped in educating blacks and Native Americans. He describes his efforts to instill manners, breeding, health and a feeling of dignity to students.
Washington is keen to stress his perspective of avoiding feeling bitterness towards white people. This is referred to in relation to former slaves and their owners, and also to a lesser degree between the populations of the North and South after the civil war. Because of his preference for highlighting the bonds between Southern whites and African Americans, and for extolling the virtues of forgiveness, a Christian ethos evidently courses through this work and his life. However, by refusing to engage in an outright condemnation of the white owners this text may at times be accused of empathising too much with the enemy in a bid to appease rather than antagonize the Southern white audience. The Tuskegee Institute was developed with this concept of dignity in labor in mind and this moral runs through the narrative as a central theme.
Perhaps the most developed theme in Up From Slavery is that of finding dignity in labor. Washington believes that slavery has given black Americans a distorted perception of labor—that it is a degrading rather than an uplifting and honorable practice. Through his education program at Tuskegee Institute, speeches, and testaments from his own life, Washington wishes to reverse the perception of labor as dishonorable, since he believes that finding dignity in labor will help to…. Booker T. Washington believed deeply in the importance of education in the development of young people.
Washington notes at the very beginning of his autobiography that he doesn't remember a time when he wasn't engaged in some sort of labor. He says even as a small child he had work to do and that he was taught to do it well. As a slave, he worked on the plantation. Later, he worked in the salt furnaces and then in the coalmine. When given an opportunity to work for a rather strict woman, thus leaving the coalmine, Washington took the job. He quickly learned that the lady simply wanted order and rather than being angry that she wanted things done in a particular way, he learned to do them to her satisfaction. Upon his arrival at the Hampton school, he was told to sweep a room.
First and foremost, Up from Slavery is a book about the power of education to transform lives. From an early age, Washington views school as a paradise, a way to escape ignorance and to become equipped to help others. He sees industrial education as key, as it gives students the skills to make a living and to be of value in their communities. For this reason he chooses to work in education rather than politics, believing he "would be helping in a more substantial way by assisting in the laying of the foundation of the race through a generous education of the hand, head, and heart" Washington is a strong advocate of self-reliance and believes that individual merit will bring success regardless of one's race.