Chief Lieutenant of the Tuskegee Machin

The Chief Lieutenant of the Tuskegee Machine by David H. Jackson Jr. exemplifies the life of Charles Banks as Booker T. Washington’s main abettor, in the Tuskegee Machine. This descriptive autobiography of Charles Banks life’s work, gives the reader an insight into the success of Booker T. Washington. Along with the biography of Charles Banks life, the book also addresses the creation and struggles of Mound Bayou. It also gives the reader an inside look on Booker T. Washington’s complex, economic concentrations rooted in the African American Community called the Tuskegee Machine.

David H. Jackson is a college professor who was writing a research paper for a research seminar course. His professor gave the class a list of people to write a research paper about. Jackson randomly chooses Charles Banks from the list. From his research paper a remarkable biography came about. Jackson begins his biography by stating his various purposes for writing this biography in the preface. One purpose was to give students a new interpretation of Booker T. Washington and the Tuskegee Machine from conniving, heavy handed, intolerable, and ruthless.

I believe this purpose was not presented in the book adequately. The author leads the reader to believe that the negative attention Gaitor, Bridget2 drawn towards Washington was in reaction to his ideas of “self help”. Washington is also portrayed as being a prominent leader “because they were dependant on his recommendation for federal political appointments (50)”. He also makes this point evident by stating that “Washington’s influences could literally make or break Negroes in public life (50)”.

These comments lead the reader to believe that the methods of Washington to establish our economic independence with the Tuskegee Machine were, by enlisting fear of social status. Another Purpose was to give an insight into the Tuskegee Machine. The author gives the reader little information into the Tuskegee Machine. Jackson only states another writer’s opinion of the true purpose of the Tuskegee Machine. He does not tell the reader what the Tuskegee Machine is. Leaving a gap in this piece of information forces the reader to create there own definition may it be right or wrong.

Washington had “influences and connections to with white philanthropists and those philanthropists had resources that could benefit the town (51)”. Banks connection with Washington was a little extra push of Mound Bayou in the right direction financially, thanks to his connects in white America. The members of the Tuskegee Machine were more than Washington’s puppets of promotion of self-help and racial uplift. There was also the intendment of informing scholars of the benefits received by the members. The members were described as businessmen who were wealthy and intelligent.

Jackson also presents a lieutenant and shows that if it were not for such key men, Washington would not be as effective as he was. The only flaw of Jackson’s purpose for writing this biography was the lack of information on the other lieutenants. His main focus was on Washington and Bank’s relationship. Gaitor, Bridget3 Jackson embedded numerous themes without the biography. One of those major themes was social status within the African American community. Throughout the book the author discusses the leaders of the time period as being of higher social class.

Along with the characters descriptions the author would say their social status as though it was necessary to identify them. The theme of classicism gave insight to the black elite, and the middle class African Americans. Jackson explained why the middle class and black elite were prosperous and advocates of change. He describes the new black elite as “mostly self-made men and women who were usually less articulate and less educated than the old elite (17)”. Obtaining a high position on the social ladder was evidently a need in the black community.

It makes the reader wonder if the new black elite were self-made, then how the old elite gained their social status. Unfortunately this question was not answered within the biography. Jackson also uses the themes of unity and progression. The creation of organization such as: masons, knights of pythias, odd fellows, national negro bankers association, and the negro banks association of Mississippi were all emblemized to promote progression of the black community.

Education was also a major theme of the novel. Jackson made this theme evident by stating “many black people throughout the nation thirsted for education, had an opportunity to receive it, and pursued it with great vigor (7)”. Once we gained our right to an education the main purpose of life was to get an education. Jackson justifies this theme by expressing Banks educational background and those of the Tuskegee Machine. Economic independence is a reoccurring theme also. During this time period blacks were “like most Americans, they aspired to something Gaitor, Bridget4 better and yearned for economic independence and self-employment.

Without that independence, their freedom seemed incomplete, even precarious (12)”. Mound Bayou is a perfect example of economic independence. The city was created to birth living grounds of prosperity for blacks. “1912 … Mound Bayou had also grown in structures and businesses, with twenty-two mercantile houses, that is, dry goods and grocery stores, which did at least $600,000 in business annually(35)” these were only the beginning success stories of this city. Oppression is another theme. The oppression of blacks in Mississippi in the early twenty first century was implied throughout the book.

The segregation of blacks and the arrival of the Jim Crow laws brought about “approximately 4,000 black men and women {who} were lynched (4)”. White Americans were trying to oppress the advancement of black community. The last theme of the biography was the theme of constructivism. Jackson implies that the Tuskegee Machine was created to develop structure in the African American community. All the efforts were to evolve a past into a brighter future. Washington and Banks structured a whole city and organization to in advancement for blacks. Jackson’s style of writing the biography was in sectional.

Every chapter has a title and a subtitle. Chapter four is titled “Leader, Organizer, and Promoter”; the chapter describes Banks Leadership positions. Jackson begins the chapter with the organizations Banks was apart of. He goes in depth of the different organizations. He also served as the head of the Oil Mill in Mound Bayou and as the Mound Bayou Banks head supervisor. Banks risked the possibility of the banks solvency to supervise the Oil Mill in Mound Gaitor, Bridget5 Bayou. He made sure he as apart of every aspect of Mound Bayou’s affairs.

The chapter is ended with the discussion of a thank you letter written to banks that read “I am glad of the conference we had (78)”. I agree with the conclusion of this chapter because I believe it exemplifies the chapter’s’ purpose. It showed that Banks work was greatly appreciated in the community. Jackson attaches photographs to the end of chapter four. These photographs are of: Charles Banks before and after he founded the Bank of Mound Bayou, the Mound Bayou Oil Mill and Manufacturing Company during and after construction, Booker T.

Washington speaking at the dedication of the mill, the Bank of Mound Bayou, Carnegie Library, Mr. and Mrs. Gaiter, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Mound Bayou Consolidated Negro School, and Booker T. Washington and associates. These old photos are symbolic to the reader as physical proof of history. They paint a mental picture of the time period and let you see the characters first hand rather than just painting mental pictures. There are specific details that the author develops in order to strengthen his characters.

In the biography Jackson establishes the first few chapters to illustrate Banks background and the background of Mound Bayou. The author states that “Bank’s parents made him aware of the importance of education (7)” this small statement formulates Banks character. There is also information about Banks’ wife Trenna Banks and her involvement in the community. The fact that Banks wife was active in his career developed a more stable home and background of success. Jackson’s background plug of Banks strengthens his dedication to the uplift of Blacks.

The biography is also organized rationally and written clearly and straightforward. Every piece of information is collected Gaitor, Bridget6 from a variety of research. By using various researches the author is able to portray different views other than his own. In his conclusion he states “In terms of an overall assessment of the Mound Bayou experiment, some authors have concluded that it failed”(214) by stating this he leaves room for the reader to draw their own conclusion. The author uses an excellent literary device of poetry, entitled “It Isn’t Your Town, It’s You”, in the beginning of chapter two.

The poem leads the reader to imply that the people of Mound Bayou created its reputation; the town did not create the people. “It Isn’t Your Town, It’s You” was symbolic to the white people who were trying to bring down Mound Bayou and other black towns in America. While this novel is full of depth information and research there is little self opinion in the novel. Jackson writes about the opinions of other authors but does not decipher between them and take his own stand. For some readers this may be a strong point in the writing, but I believe the writer could have added his opinion of the controversial information.

In chapter ten the title is “After Booker T. Washington”. This chapter was developed to describe the events that occurred after Washington’s death. It also describes how influential Washington was over others. I believe the chapter ended gracefully, with the turmoil over land. The ending to chapter was that extra literary empathizes on Washington’s importance in the black community. The title of the biography does justify the book as a whole. I believe the biography focuses more on the relationship between Banks, Washington and Mound Bayou.

The lack of information involving the Tuskegee Machine leads the biography to be in need of a new headline. It is hard to believe that David H Jackson a college professor developed a full Gaitor, Bridget7 biography from a college research paper. From one assignment an insight into a new era for African Americans surfaced. The conclusion of the novel is evident of the work that was put into the creation of a better tomorrow for blacks. Jackson ends the biography with the fall of Mound Bayou. Even though the city ends its “Golden Age” Jackson makes it known that “the experiment worked.

It worked not only because it gave blacks some reprieve from the onslaught of white supremacy, discrimination, oppression, and exploitation throughout the South, but also because it allowed them to exercise freedoms not practiced by a number of blacks in the South until decades later (215)”. Mound Bayou was a stepping stone for greater things to come about in history. I agree with the author’s conclusion to the book. Jackson’s biography served another purpose than those he stated. It showed the reader the success we can achieve when we work together on a common goal.