In Booker T. Washington’s Up from Slavery, I read Chapter 17, “Last Words.” This is the final chapter of the book.
I have two points. First of all, Booker T. Washington talks about “several severe race riots which had occurred at different points in the South.” But he doesn’t really elaborate on this. Most of this chapter is about how he’s come a long way from his slavery days (or I think that I read that point again), how he’s been received well by white audiences, how good it is to devote one’s life to a cause, the importance of manual labor—basically, Booker T. Washington’s greatest hits. Washington tries to give us a sunny picture of race relations, but there are times when we see that there’s another story as well—that racism and discontent are still alive.
I can’t say that Booker T. Washington ignores racism, though, for he says that racists are hurting themselves, and he argues against those who hold that African-Americans are immoral. But he remains ever the optimist, for he deeply feels that he has the solution to racial problems: African-Americans should work hard and gain the respect of white society. He thought that whites would respect merit, for that is a part of human nature. W.E.B. Du Bois may have been a little more skeptical, however.
Second, Washington gives us the schedule of the typical day for a Tuskegee student:
“5 A.M., rising bell; 5.50 A.M., warning breakfast bell; 6 A.M., breakfast bell; 6.20 A.M., breakfast over; 6.20 to 6.50 A.M., rooms are cleaned; 6.50, work bell; 7.30, morning study hour; 8.20, morning school bell; 8.25, inspection of young men’s toilet in ranks; 8.40, devotional exercises in chapel; 8.55, “five minutes with the daily news;” 9 A.M., class work begins; 12, class work closes; 12.15 P.M., dinner; 1 P.M., work bell; 1.30 P.M., class work begins; 3.30 P.M., class work ends; 5.30 P.M., bell to “knock off” work; 6 P.M., supper; 7.10 P.M., evening prayers; 7.30 P.M., evening study hour; 8.45 P.M., evening study hour closes; 9.20 P.M., warning retiring bell; 9.30 P.M., retiring bell.”
This took me aback because, on more than one occasion, Booker T. Washington says that Tuskegee students were required to spend huge parts of the day in manual labor—such as brick-making. But I don’t see much manual labor on this schedule. Is manual labor included under “class work”?
I’ve enjoyed reading and blogging through the writings of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois during this Black History Month! Tomorrow, I will be starting a book for Women’s History Month, and yet it overlaps with African-American issues. Stay tuned!