Monthly Archives: November 2013

Review: The Education of Booker T. Washington

Washington often talked about the embrace of manual labor as a virtue — in opposition to the fetishization of education as providing an “easy way out” from the hardships of a newly attained freedom. Here perhaps there could have been a more solid intervention by West: this presented an opportunity to investigate how concepts of industriousness and social independence throughout labor (although not labor in the cities) animated Washington’s political imagination. West writes that Washington was inconsistent about his portrayal of the black race as most industrious, or less industrious etc. (97), but in his very telling (and damning) quote that “notwithstanding the cruel wrongs inflicted upon us, the black man got nearly as much out of slavery as the white man did,” Washington seems to imply that slavery served as a kind of labor-training for American blacks (a notion he also contradicts in other statements).

Review: The Education of Booker T. Washington

Washington often talked about the embrace of manual labor as a virtue — in opposition to the fetishization of education as providing an “easy way out” from the hardships of a newly attained freedom. Here perhaps there could have been a more solid intervention by West: this presented an opportunity to investigate how concepts of industriousness and social independence throughout labor (although not labor in the cities) animated Washington’s political imagination. West writes that Washington was inconsistent about his portrayal of the black race as most industrious, or less industrious etc. (97), but in his very telling (and damning) quote that “notwithstanding the cruel wrongs inflicted upon us, the black man got nearly as much out of slavery as the white man did,” Washington seems to imply that slavery served as a kind of labor-training for American blacks (a notion he also contradicts in other statements).