Discuss the weaknesses in Booker T. Washington's narrative Up From Slavery?

One of the weaknesses of Booker T. Washington’s narrative Up From Slavery is that it doesn’t move beyond an accommodationist strategy for Black Americans to follow in their struggles against racism and prejudice. It does nothing to address the deep-seated substantive obstacles to racial equality in contemporary American society.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Up From SlaveryBooker T. Washington provides the reader with a truly inspiring account of his life, with an especially strong focus on his struggle to achieve an education for himself and another Black people. The book has rightly been judged one of the undisputed classics of Black American...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

In Up From Slavery Booker T. Washington provides the reader with a truly inspiring account of his life, with an especially strong focus on his struggle to achieve an education for himself and another Black people. The book has rightly been judged one of the undisputed classics of Black American literature, which still speaks to many in this day and age.

Yet Washington received a great deal of criticism for his ideas, in particular from those more radical black thinkers such as W. E. B. DuBois, who railed against Washington’s strategy of accommodation with White society as a means of bringing about racial equality.

In Up From Slavery, this accommodationists strategy is much in evidence, particularly in Washington’s struggle for Black education. He sees this as a way of giving Black people a chance to show the White man that they’re every bit as good and that if they are given educational opportunities, they will eventually come up to the same level.

Then, as now, critics accused Washington of ignoring the deep-seated structural injustices that hold back Black Americans in society. They argued that, even if Black people achieved Washington’s lofty educational ideals, they would still not be accepted as equals by White society.

Racism is deeply embedded in the structures and institutions of society, and will remain so unless radical change takes place. But Washington offered no such change, concentrating instead on empowering Black people through education.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on