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Chapters 7-9: Up From Slavery

#145: Apr. - June 2016 (Non-Fiction)
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Chris OConnor

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Chapters 7-9: Up From Slavery

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Chapters 7-9: Up From Slavery


Please use this thread for discussing Chapters 7-9: Up From Slavery.
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LevV

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Re: Chapters 7-9: Up From Slavery

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Exciting teaching opportunities continue to open up for Washington. After teaching for only a couple of years at Hampton Institute, his friend General Armstrong invites him to take charge of a school in Tuskegee, Alabama, in the heart of the Black Belt. He accepts the offer, not realizing the challenges that lie ahead. He arrived in Tuskegee to find that there was no building to house the school although there was money available for teaching staff. Strange! What he did find was a Black population hungry for an education. I thought it impressive that he would take the time to travel around the region to get to know the people and promote the school.

I find him quite critical of the lifestyle of the Black folks he is visiting. He is especially critical of their buying what he saw as luxuries that they didn't seem to need. BTW doesn't suggest why people in poverty and being discriminated against might engage in that kind of behavior.

I enjoyed his anecdote on voting:
"I recall that one man, who seemed to have been designated by the others to look after my political destiny, came to me on several occasions and said, with a good deal of earnestness: 'We wants you to be sure to vote jes' like we votes. We can't read de newspapers very much, but we knows how to vote, an' we wants you to vote jes' like we votes.' He added: 'We watches de white man, and we keeps watching de white man till we finds out which way de white man's gwine to vote; an' when we finds out which way de white man's gwine to vote, den we votes 'xactly de other way. Den we knows we's right"
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Re: Chapters 7-9: Up From Slavery

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The Black Belt, so called because it has the best soil and therefore that is where most of the slaves were located.

His critique of rural black life:
in the case of the most of these visits, there had been no notice given in advance that a stranger was expected, I had the advantage of seeing the real, everyday life of the people. In the plantation districts I found that, as a rule, the whole family slept in one room, and that in addition to the immediate family 58 there sometimes were relatives, or others not related to the family, who slept in the same room. On more than one occasion I went outside the house to get ready for bed, or to wait until the family had gone to bed. They usually contrived some kind of a place for me to sleep, either on the floor or in a special part of another’s bed. Rarely was there any place provided in the cabin where one could bathe even the face and hands, but usually some provision was made for this outside the house, in the yard. The common diet of the people was fat pork and corn bread. At times I have eaten in cabins where they had only corn bread and “blackeye peas” cooked in plain water. The people seemed to have no other idea than to live on this fat meat and corn bread- the meat, and the meal of which the bread was made, having been bought at a high price at a store in town, notwithstanding the fact that the land all about the cabin homes could easily have been made to produce nearly every kind of garden vegetable that is raised anywhere in the country.
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Re: Chapters 7-9: Up From Slavery

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I'm not sure how I feel about Washington capturing the dialect of the poor, rural blacks. It seems incongruous, at least, with the elevated tone he strives for in his prose. Dare I say a little of the minstrel show? He seems to be impressing upon the readers just how backward this population is. On voting: well yes, the man appears a little ridiculous, but Washington could give his criticisms of the faith in the power of voting without discounting the whole activity as silly and a distraction from the real task at hand. Is there no value in participation in politics?
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Re: Chapters 7-9: Up From Slavery

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DWill wrote:I'm not sure how I feel about Washington capturing the dialect of the poor, rural blacks. It seems incongruous, at least, with the elevated tone he strives for in his prose. Dare I say a little of the minstrel show? He seems to be impressing upon the readers just how backward this population is.
I had similar mixed feelings about the attempt to reproduce the local dialect in print. You just reminded me that I barely think about it anymore since I've been reading sections of Leon F Litwack's "Been In The Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery" and other sources where the dialect is reproduced in print. I'm thinking that in many cases there might be more lost than gained by translating to standard English.
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Re: Chapters 7-9: Up From Slavery

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The reproduction of dialectics is a demonstration of the effectiveness of slavery on an individuals ability to articulate a complex thought. These former slaves show the innate ability of the thinking mind that has been deliberately suppressed by outside forces. Voting opposite of the white man also is the measure of distrust present with their former masters. (I do not blame the emancipated, theirs is a natural reaction) My initial thought is one of embarrassment for the former slaves but that feeling is over come by empathy.
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Re: Chapters 7-9: Up From Slavery

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Robert Tulip wrote:The Black Belt, so called because it has the best soil and therefore that is where most of the slaves were located.

His critique of rural black life:
in the case of the most of these visits, there had been no notice given in advance that a stranger was expected, I had the advantage of seeing the real, everyday life of the people. In the plantation districts I found that, as a rule, the whole family slept in one room, and that in addition to the immediate family 58 there sometimes were relatives, or others not related to the family, who slept in the same room. On more than one occasion I went outside the house to get ready for bed, or to wait until the family had gone to bed. They usually contrived some kind of a place for me to sleep, either on the floor or in a special part of another’s bed. Rarely was there any place provided in the cabin where one could bathe even the face and hands, but usually some provision was made for this outside the house, in the yard. The common diet of the people was fat pork and corn bread. At times I have eaten in cabins where they had only corn bread and “blackeye peas” cooked in plain water. The people seemed to have no other idea than to live on this fat meat and corn bread- the meat, and the meal of which the bread was made, having been bought at a high price at a store in town, notwithstanding the fact that the land all about the cabin homes could easily have been made to produce nearly every kind of garden vegetable that is raised anywhere in the country.
That quote has been bugging me because it contradicts a passage I quoted from Chapter 1.
Ever since I have been old enough to think for myself, I have entertained the idea that, notwithstanding the cruel wrongs inflicted upon us, the black man got nearly as much out of slavery as the white man did. p.6
He went on to explain how white folks didn't have any skills because the slaves performed all the chores. But later on he reveals the truth that many of the slaves were indeed broken. In another passage he described a family that had literally ONE fork, but also made payments for a musical organ that no one played.
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Re: Chapters 7-9: Up From Slavery

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It was fairly extraordinary just on the surface level that Washington made these kind of home visits to the poor, rural black families in order to experience what they did. I can't imagine myself being able to do that.

Regarding the statement that blacks got as much out of slavery as the whites, I think we already reacted to that belief of Washington's. He means that slavery gave the American blacks an advantage in character that could not have accrued to the Africans left in Africa. That's a part of Washington's faith. It does seem Pollyannish from a later historical vantage point.
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