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 What this discussion can be...
In my opinion we should encourage this discussion to be about more than just Booker T. Washington's autobiography Up From Slavery. His book can be a springboard to something larger and more significant.

The larger issue of slavery is what I'm hoping to see analyzed and discussed here. We should even aim to pull people into the discussion that may not have read the book, but have opinions of slavery and its impact on the United States. Of course slavery existed in more places than just the US.

I sure could use some help spreading the word of this discussion. If you participate on other forums or in Facebook groups please link them to BookTalk.org. The more participants the better. :thanks2:

And please don't feel restricted to the chapter threads I've created. Create your own if you like. Up From Slavery was a documentary on TV too. Discussing the documentary or related books, movies and YouTube videos is worthy of our time too.



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LevV, Robert Tulip
Tue Apr 05, 2016 9:59 am
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Post Re: What this discussion can be...
In time honoured tradition, scroll to the end and click on the link for some great musical accompaniment to the post.

Well worth reading the Wikipedia article as an introduction
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Up_from_Slavery
Wikipedia wrote:
Up from Slavery
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

First edition
Up from Slavery is the 1901 autobiography of Booker T. Washington detailing his personal experiences in working to rise 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 University, 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. His educational philosophy stresses combining academic subjects with learning a trade (something which is reminiscent of the educational theories of John Ruskin). Washington explained that the integration of practical subjects is partly designed to reassure the white community as to the usefulness of educating black people.
This book was first released as a serialized work in 1900 through The Outlook, a Christian newspaper of New York. This work was serialized because this meant that during the writing process, Washington was able to hear critiques and requests from his audience and could more easily adapt his paper to his diverse audience.

First Cover of The Outlook newspaper
Washington was a controversial figure in his own lifetime, and W. E. B. Du Bois, among others, criticized some of his views. The book was, however, a best-seller, and remained the most popular African American autobiography until that of Malcolm X. In 1998, the Modern Library listed the book at No. 3 on its list of the 100 best nonfiction books of the 20th century.


Makes me think of Green Onions



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Tue Apr 05, 2016 2:51 pm
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Post Re: What this discussion can be...
Thanks Chris for the suggestion to broaden the discussion to include topics on slavery beyond that of the text under discussion.

Although the acknowledged leader of Black People at that time, Booker T Washington's position was one of accommodation, even going so far as to be accepting of segregation (as he states in his famous Atlantic Exposition of 1895). In order to have a more complete understanding of the views of Blacks and liberal white folks during this period, some familiarity of The opposite position as expressed by WEB Du Bois would be very helpful. As Donald Gibson states in his introduction to Du Bois "The Souls Of Black Folks":
""Every chapter of Du Bois's book forms a segment of a complex argument deriving from the political, philosophical, psychological, and temperamental differences between him and Booker T. Washington".

Clearly, much additional material for discussion in this text. And, the book can be had for pennies on Amazon! This book would be worth buying, even if only for the introduction and chapter 3 on Booker T. Washington.



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Post Re: What this discussion can be...
I must have missed an announcement that we'd be reading Up from Slavery. I'm interested, and if Lev V and Robert are participating, the discussion should be a good one.

Many years ago, I read The Peculiar Institution, by Kenneth M. Stampp, and it made a strong impression on me. But Booker T. Washington's autobiography is a neglected book for me.



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Post Re: What this discussion can be...
I too look forward to delving deeper into the life and times of Booker T Washington. I recall reading the book many,many years ago and dismissing Washington as an 'Uncle Tom'. At the time, along with fellow lefties, I was more interested in the works of WEB Du Bois and Marcus Garvey.

I just finished reading the introduction to the "World's Classics" edition of Up From Slavery by William Andrews and was introduced to much new information about Washington. For example, I was surprised to hear that Washington secretly financed and directed several court suits against a variety of discriminations in the South. In Andrew's Introduction to the book we are warned that, "Washington wrote behind multiple masks in Up From Slavery and seldom lowered them enough to allow his readers to look him full in the face. If this is so, then his autobiography must be read cautiously and on several levels, at least one of them ironic, almost all the time".



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Thu Apr 07, 2016 7:35 am
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Post Re: What this discussion can be...
David Frum wrote an extensive review of this book in 2013, bringing up some of the concerns mentioned above. Looks like the book will be quite a challenge, but not for the reasons I expected.
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2 ... erica.html

FYI: The only reason I found this review is Frum tweeted about it on the same day we selected the book for discussion. I tweeted him that BookTalk had selected the book for discussion. Perhaps I should be shameless and ask for a re-tweet so his 100K+ followers will see a mention of this discussion?



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Post Re: What this discussion can be...
LD wrote:
Perhaps I should be shameless and ask for a re-tweet so his 100K+ followers will see a mention of this discussion?


:lol: aum namah shivaya



Thu Apr 07, 2016 9:09 pm
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Post Re: What this discussion can be...
LevV wrote:
I too look forward to delving deeper into the life and times of Booker T Washington. I recall reading the book many,many years ago and dismissing Washington as an 'Uncle Tom'.

Uncle Tom is an interesting example of mythical evolution. Starting from Stowe’s book which Lincoln said caused the Civil War by creating sympathy for abolition, Tom began as something of a Christ figure who humanized the suffering of slavery for white audiences. Precisely because of the power of this myth, Tom was then captured by racists in a countermyth, to become the pathetic stock figure of excessive subservience in blackface minstrelry. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is as a result sometimes still misperceived through the distorting hostile lens of ideological nostalgia for slavery.

The theme of “acting white” whereby blacks shame each other for being successful is a cultural development that Up From Slavery rejects. BTW’s effort in walking across Virginia with no money to get to school, and his fervent energy in educating himself after a childhood without contact to literacy, could readily be denigrated as acting white. Many would admire his focus on individual self-improvement. Others might drag him down for his effort to stand out of the crowd and achieve practical results for himself and his race.


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Post Re: What this discussion can be...
LanDroid wrote:
David Frum wrote an extensive review of this book in 2013, bringing up some of the concerns mentioned above. Looks like the book will be quite a challenge, but not for the reasons I expected.
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2 ... erica.html

FYI: The only reason I found this review is Frum tweeted about it on the same day we selected the book for discussion. I tweeted him that BookTalk had selected the book for discussion. Perhaps I should be shameless and ask for a re-tweet so his 100K+ followers will see a mention of this discussion?

What a fascinating review! I note the mention of the biography of Booker T Up From History - http://www.amazon.com/Up-History-Life-B ... 0674060377

And I doubt that any Senator today would get away with what one Senator said when Booker T became the first black to dine at the White House.
South Carolina Senator Ben Tillman wrote:
The action of President Roosevelt in entertaining that nigger will necessitate our killing a thousand niggers in the South before they will learn their place again.

The whole question here of the relation between practicality and ideology is an essential enduring problem. For example I see it in the climate debate today, where the vacuous Kline idea of mobilizing a mass movement is 200% counterproductive, generating plenty of political heat but no solid ideas. What is needed in all reform movements is respectful effort to develop success, on the model of Booker T's focus on black education and property. The legacy of Tuskegee is the black middle class.


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Post Re: What this discussion can be...
Americans have forgotten how vicious racist rhetoric used to be, see quote above from SENATOR Ben Tillman. This reminds me of when Frederick Douglass visited Lincoln in the White House. A GOVERNOR said something along the lines of "The STENCH emanating from the White House is enough to make sewer rats swarm up from the Potomac River and take over that foul establishment!" (Can't find exact link.) These words from prominent politicians, not hillbillies talking at the back yard fence - imagine what they were saying...



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Post Re: What this discussion can be...
Robert Tulip wrote:


LevV wrote:
I too look forward to delving deeper into the life and times of Booker T Washington. I recall reading the book many,many years ago and dismissing Washington as an 'Uncle Tom'.

Uncle Tom is an interesting example of mythical evolution. Starting from Stowe’s book which Lincoln said caused the Civil War by creating sympathy for abolition, Tom began as something of a Christ figure who humanized the suffering of slavery for white audiences. Precisely because of the power of this myth, Tom was then captured by racists in a countermyth, to become the pathetic stock figure of excessive subservience in blackface minstrelry. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is as a result sometimes still misperceived through the distorting hostile lens of ideological nostalgia for slavery.

The theme of “acting white” whereby blacks shame each other for being successful is a cultural development that Up From Slavery rejects. BTW’s effort in walking across Virginia with no money to get to school, and his fervent energy in educating himself after a childhood without contact to literacy, could readily be denigrated as acting white. Many would admire his focus on individual self-improvement. Others might drag him down for his effort to stand out of the crowd and achieve practical results for himself and his race.


Of course, you're right historically. In fact, it gets even more interesting with white Southerners and many Blacks having opposite views during the same historical period. Apparently, the Daughters of the Confederacy lobbied Southern legislatures to outlaw performances of Uncle Tom's Cabin, because, they insisted, the play slandered the South in its harsh depiction of slavery. The truth about slavery remained a political battleground where the Uncle Tom that was too submissive for many blacks seemed, at the same time, deeply dangerous to Southern whites.



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Post Re: What this discussion can be...
I recall Stowe's book a little dimly, but one aspect that probably seems unacceptable today is depicting a range of slave owners from the purely evil to the benevolent. The institution itself was, of course, evil, so to write of any slave owner in sympathetic terms can seem an outrage. Yet, we must assume (mustn't we?) that some people who owned other human beings were more enlightened than others. It does seem absurd to say this, I admit, from the present day, but it might be historically true. Unfortunately for the non-brutal slave owners, their relative kindness can be compared to people who treated their work animals well vs. those who were hard on them.

It's tough to be objective about slavery. The tendency is to reject any nuance in favor of blanket moral condemnation. That is the 'right" attitude, but it may get in the way of objectivity.



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Post Re: What this discussion can be...
DWill wrote:
It's tough to be objective about slavery. The tendency is to reject any nuance in favor of blanket moral condemnation. That is the 'right" attitude, but it may get in the way of objectivity.


Emphatic positioning nullifies debate, The problem is that no matter how enlightened or benevolent the owner, there was still the crack of the whip. I think the key there is, as Ken Stamp puts it, is that, benevolence was the rare exception, so, I think that the venue of debate and with whom the debate is happening determines objective and subjective levels. The key is honesty, both sides need to have more than a low level understanding of history, For those in possession of higher levels of study, I'd question whether there would be much of a debate on absolutes.


Lerone Bennett, Jr. has in his book "Before The Mayflower" a chapter titled "The Life and Times of Jim Crow" He dates Jim Crow as far back as 1832, by 1839 there was a book "The History of Jim Crow"
by 1841 there was in Massachusetts, a Jim Crow railroad car, Its exact genesis is unknown, what is known is that there was early on a minstrel aspect that evolved through the time of Stowe and reconstruction. C. Vann Woodward in his book "The strange Career of Jim Crow" according to Bennett, "has shown that so long as blacks were slaves, so long as they posed no threat to the political and economic supremacy of whites, people were content to live with them on terms of relative intimacy. But when the slave became a citizen, when he got a ballot in his hand and pencil and paper, there were demands for laws and arrangements that would humiliate him and keep him in his place". (separate but equal ?)

1896; Plessy v. Ferguson, the supreme court said State laws requiring "separate but equal" accommodations for blacks were a "reasonable" use of state police powers' adding: "the object of the fourteenth amendment was undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law, but in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based on color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political equality, or a comingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to either".
Justice Harlan dissented, calling the decision "as pernicious as the decision made by this tribunal in the Dred Scott case". This at the time of Booker T's rise in prominence.

Lerone calls the "cornerstone's" of turn of the 20th century Jim Crow "interracial eating and intermarriage". When I study black history, what I discover among a long list of exceptional accomplishment is white fear and greed, from the 17th century we have the creation of the roots of that modern greed, the fear was the invention to perpetuate that greed. There has been made a boogeyman and his bones are wrapped in dark skin.

Re-reading some material on my bookshelves, reading some new materials related to this discussion, thinking of personal experience's past and present, having spent the better part of my lifetime trying to understand the black experience, I'm reminded again of how much I admire black American's.



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Post Re: What this discussion can be...
Taylor, I hope you will be part of the discussion. You seem to have a deep background in the subject. I live in the Old Dominion, Virginia, in a county that was more than half slave before the war. Tidewater planters relocated to this part of the Shenandoah Valley (I'm not entirely sure why), bringing their slaves with them.



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Post Re: What this discussion can be...
There are shades of Robert Wright in how I think about slavery. It seems to me that slavery has roots that go far back in our history, and was firmly established in the ancient world when war was commonplace and the spoils of war included slaves. Many ancient writers discuss slavery as perfectly natural and even necessary for social stability. Gradually slavery has become more repugnant in civilized society, perhaps as western ideals became more focused on the idea that all men are created equal. Robert Wright might argue that the institution of slavery was too zero sum to survive the evolution from a tribal world to the grand nation-states that emphasize equality over dominion and subjugation.

The move to abolish slavery probably started hundreds of years ago, but it seems to have got some traction in the mid 1700s on both sides of the Atlantic. Thomas Paine was a founding member of the first anti-slavery society in America in 1775. The Quakers in England were against slavery in the 1700s and the idea of abolishing slavery appears in some of British Romantic literature, especially with the two Williams—Wordsworth and Blake.

Blake, who knew Paine, wrote the poem, Little Black Boy in 1789, the year of the French Revolution. This poem was written from the perspective of a black boy, who internalizes his mother's teaching that the skin color of blacks shows that they are closer to the Sun, a metaphor for God, as a result of their greater suffering on earth. The poem ends on a bittersweet note.

The Little Black Boy

My mother bore me in the southern wild,
And I am black, but O! my soul is white;
White as an angel is the English child:
But I am black as if bereav’d of light.

My mother taught me underneath a tree
And sitting down before the heat of day,
She took me on her lap and kissed me,
And pointing to the east began to say.

Look on the rising sun: there God does live
And gives his light, and gives his heat away.
And flowers and trees and beasts and men receive
Comfort in morning joy in the noon day.

And we are put on earth a little space,
That we may learn to bear the beams of love,
And these black bodies and this sun-burnt face
Is but a cloud, and like a shady grove.

For when our souls have learn’d the heat to bear
The cloud will vanish we shall hear his voice.
Saying: come out from the grove my love & care,
And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice.

Thus did my mother say and kissed me,
And thus I say to little English boy;
When I from black and he from white cloud free,
And round the tent of God like lambs we joy:

I’ll shade him from the heat till he can bear,
To lean in joy upon our fathers knee.
And then I’ll stand and stroke his silver hair,
And be like him and he will then love me.


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