Why does Booker T. Washington represent voice, spirit, and hope of America?

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mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Booker T. Washington was a former slave, who became an author, orator, educator, and political activist.  Following the Civil War he identified the need for former slaves to find a means to be able to earn an income and to find their own way to grab onto part of the success of the white man in America.  He did not do this through retaliation but by using manners and political activity.  He engaged in befriending leaders in the white world who could help him to create jobs and a job market for African Americans.  He knew that in order for the former slaves to become a part of America that they would have to provide needed services for white people.  He was well received by the president of the United States.  He was non-threatening and did not pursue career development for black people that would take away white jobs. Instead he used the skills that they already had, created services and schools to teach black people new skills, and found jobs and employment for them in the community.


Washington not only spoke of the American dream but demonstrated to the former slaves that success could be attained.  He did not try to contain success for himself, but rather tried to help others to achieve success.  He recognized a need for African American’s to be able to fit in to American society.  However, he was not without critics.  W.E.B. Dubois spoke out against Washington and expressed that Washington’s approach to labor merely kept the black man and woman restricted to thankless jobs such as house keepers and brick layers and did little to move them forward in educational endeavors or social status.  To the freed slaves and their off spring Washington offered a chance of hope and guidance towards a better future representing the Spirit of America.


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