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What this discussion can be...

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

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What this discussion can be...

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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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Robert Tulip

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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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LevV

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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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DWill

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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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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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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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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
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Robert Tulip

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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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Robert Tulip

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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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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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