1. What was the author’s intended audience, to whom did he write? Support your claim with textual evidence. The author, Booker T. Washington did not have a particular audience. Booker T. Washington wrote this autobiography to all people, of all ages and races. Being an African-American he did not focus his writing for only ex-slaves. Booker T. Washington never had a pessimistic attitude towards the slave masters or anybody who mistreated him and his own race. Booker T. Washington’s “life had its beginning in the midst of the most miserable, desolate, and discouraging surroundings” (9).
He adds on saying that “[his] owners were especially cruel” (9). Through these statements Washington makes sure his audience sees that there is no animosity between him and his ex-slave masters. Booker says “I think it will found to be true that there are few instances, either in slavery or freedom, in which a member of my race has been known to betray a specific trust” (13). This further extends the fact that there is no hatred between the blacks and the whites. All these details explain that Booker T.
Washington wrote this autobiography for all people, not as a protest against blacks, but as a method to give out information to the people about the reincarnation of African-Americans from slaves and servants to highly educated, influential people on and in the society and the nation as a whole. Overall, in his autobiography, Booker T. Washington describes and gives an image of the lives of former slaves as one of setbacks interspersed with optimism. Washington emphasizes the optimism and believes that whites and blacks living together is not only possible, but probable in spite of the ghost of the institution of slavery.
2. What was the author’s main thesis, what was he trying to show? Again, support your claim with textual evidence. Booker T. Washington’s main thesis in his autobiography is the revival of his race from being slaves and people who were belittled and of little importance to a race that can achieve what they set their minds on. Throughout his life, Washington perseveres in every endeavor he tries and he eventually founds the Tuskegee Institute to promote education and industry. The title of this book sums up Booker T. Washington’s main thesis.
“Up From Slavery” refers to Washington’s determination to raise himself and his race out of the mentality of a slave. Booker T. Washington breaks down his main thesis into five main points: the importance of an education, the dignity of work, the net of slavery, the relationship between the races, and the measurement of success. Booker learned the importance of education when he was denied it as a slave and later from General Armstrong at the Hampton Institute. However, for Booker it wasn’t just studying books and learning facts and ideas.
He believed that it was also important to learn a trade. He accepted the fact that if every black citizen conducted himself modesty and worked hard to learn a trade better than anyone else, he can be successful in life and be better than anyone else regardless of skin color. Booker reached Virginia feeling “tired, hungry, and dirty [late at night]” (24). He slept on the streets and once he reached the Hampton Institute he had no money to pay for his education and dorm. As a result of his ambition, Booker “swept the floors” (26) as a janitor to make up for the money he did not and could not pay.
This shows that if you want to achieve something, you have to try your hardest to get what you want. Booker went out of his way just to get an education. Later in his life, as a result of his past education he founded the Tuskegee Institute. His second position, the dignity of work emphasizes how an education and a trade go hand-in-hand. The Tuskegee Institute did not admit students who were not willing to work at learning a trade simultaneously as devoting themselves to academic and spiritual pursuits. Booker mentions that “ninety-five percent [of the students] erected the buildings of the Tuskegee Institute” (98).
Booker T. Washington and his wife, Mrs. Margaret James Washington had three children: Portia, Booker, and Earnest. Booker T. Washington gives examples of his children as people who have and are willing to learn a trade along with their academic education. He says “Portia has learned dressmaking [and] has unusual ability in instrumental music” (96). “Booker… has already nearly mastered the brickmason’s trade [and] is going to be an architect and brickmason” (96). Booker also mentions his youngest son “Earnest is going to be a physician in addition to going to school” (97).
Booker’s third main point is the net of slavery. As an institution of American society, slavery impacted negatively on both blacks and whites. It kept black people in actual bondage for hundreds of years and made it inordinately difficult for them to become contributing members of society. Booker T. Washington is trying to tell his audience that slavery did not only have an effect on blacks, but also on the white people as well. In his fourth point, the relationship between the races, Booker knew that there was a long road ahead for his people, because old attitudes die hard.
That’s why h devoted himself to convincing both blacks and whites that learning to live together was important and essential for the growth if the nation. Washington’s last point is the measurement of success. Booker felt that success was measured by the obstacles overcome to achieve it, not in what was attained at the end. He emphasized this point repeatedly to the students at Tuskegee Institute and to his audience wherever he spoke. For example in his own life, Booker T. Washington overcame the death of his mother, leaving his siblings at home, and sleeping on the streets in order to get an education.
His basic message is in order to achieve, you have to believe in yourself and do anything in your possibility to accomplish it. Booker T. Washington’s style is to present his life’s story in a very straightforward, simple manner and allow the reader to come to his own conclusions about him. He feels in this way that he can reach anyone who would read it with his philosophies about race, education, and hard work. 3. Do you agree or disagree with the author’s key issue? Explain and cite examples to make your point. I do agree with Booker T. Washington’s main issue of getting “up from slavery” for many reasons.
Washington was a man that did not show animosity towards the white man, but was optimistic towards the future of his race. Booker T. Washington is similar to my father. My father was left alone in Lebanon during their civil war and had to flee to America. He told me that times were rough, but he was positive that the future would be good and prosperous for him. Booker T. Washington never looked at the past and the hardships he and his people went through. Booker was always trying to find a way to expand his knowledge. Although it took many years and difficult challenges, Booker T.
founded the Tuskegee Institute and helped blacks get an education. I think that Washington’s key issue applies to everything in life. If something occurs that is not pleasant or causes pain, the person should move on and think about what he/she can do to make the future better. This attitude will help a person achieve everything in life, which was Booker T. Washington’s main issue. 4. What was the best part of this book and what did you like least? Explain your answer. This book from start to finish had many interesting facts and issues brought up by the author.
Right off the bat, Booker T. gave a good description of how his life was in the slave quarters working and a description of his childhood. The best part of the book for me was Booker’s journey from his home to the Hampton institute. Booker says that when he “first went to Hampton [he did] not recall ever [sleeping] in a bed that had two sheets in it” (28). Another part of the book that I enjoyed was when Booker would go around from house to house asking if they would donate money towards the Tuskegee Institute, This shows Booker’s ambition to lift his race out of the grave.
However, the falling action of the book was my favorite. This is when President McKinley and his cabinet visited the Tuskegee Institute. This was a remarkable moment for Washington because it shows that his lifetime work had paid off. I can honestly say that I didn’t dislike anything because I agree with Booker T. Washington in the positions he stands for. W. E. B. Dubois however is a different story. His view on slavery and the rebuilding of his race and is different from mine and Washington’s.