Booker T. Washington's Up From Slavery Term Paper

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¶ … Booker T. Washington's Up from Slavery and the Narratives of the Life of Frederick Douglass

The Lasting Impact of Slavery: Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington

The institution of slavery has always been a dark stain on the history of this great nation. Not only did it place millions of Americans under the thumb of subjugation for hundreds of years, after it was abolished it continued to reek havoc on the population of African-Americans in the form of extreme prejudice and oppression. Listening to the voices of those who experienced slavery lets us experience the tragedy with them. Although the writing styles of Frederick Douglas and Booker T. Washington are dissimilar, the two authors portray the dehumanizing affects of slavery and present experiences which were meant to cover the general slave experience. Yet, their primary messages were also dissimilar, Douglass was calling for a radical revolution to end slavery and oppression, while Washington was calling for a slow assimilation into white society.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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The writing style of the two authors is far from alike. Frederick Douglas speaks to us in his narrative in an educated and articulate tone -- Douglass goes out of his way to show a complex understanding of the English language and a strong literacy, despite his origin as a slave. His tone is also extremely controlled, and rarely shows interjections of emotions. This literary device aims to appeal to his audience's intellectual nature, as well as to show his mastery of higher learning. There are many instances when Douglass uses logic and reason to discredit arguments for slavery's practice. Douglass uses language itself to blend his two selves together -- the human and the slave. With words, he can effectively understand his condition under slavery, as well as his desire to remove himself out of the inhumane practice. Through his developing knowledge, Douglass begins to understand his condition in slavery. This understanding then leads to the desire and commitment to break free from the institutions literal and figurative chains.

Yet, Washington was a little more subdued in his use of language. Although highly educated himself, his tone was much more conversational and simple. Writing style was simple, much different to Douglass' appeal to logic. According to Washington himself, "I have tried to tell a simple, straightforward story, with no attempt at embellishment," (Washington vii). Yet, Washington also associates his experience as a commonly shared one, and thus represents the generalized slave experience. Like Douglass, this then gives him a voice to speak for all those who were in his position. Additionally, Washing did not come right out with addressing provocative topics. Hotbed issues were not as clearly stated and direct as Douglass. However, Washington did speak his mind regarding the affects of inequality seen during the era of Reconstruction. One thing that is similar to Douglass, is that even generations after slaver, Washington still needed to be introduced by another white author, Walter H. Page. This shows that the prejudices against African-Americans were still running strong despite emancipation. Still, Washington was "determined to show his interest and faith in the race, not merely in words, but by acts," (Washington 305). He wanted to prove not only his own worth, but the worth of his race as to end the prejudice placed upon them for so many long years. However, unlike Douglass, who is strong in his convictions towards freedom, Washington proves a little soft in terms of demanding equality (Schulkin 105). Whereas, Douglass was directly clear in calling for radical revolution.

The general purpose of the two authors' works was also different. Douglass' narrative was still written while slavery was still an institutional practice -- to end slavery

Douglass' experiences are those of his own, but they are also representative of all slave experiences during the era. He presents his experiences in the narrative through a commonly shared lens of slave experiences. Despite the violence seen in the work itself, Douglass does take a strong non-violent approach against slavery. In fact, he only uses violence when absolutely necessary in defending his life and liberty. In his fight with Covey, he is not the instigator, but rather merely defending himself against an inhuman aggressor. Thus, Douglass is calling for a major step -- not only abolition of slavery, but for the slaves themselves to once again pull themselves out of slavery and back into manhood. This piece of his message he does share with Washington.

Washington did call for the black community to rise up, but he wanted them to do so in a much more quiet and controlled manner. He believed that the black community would do this by slowly assimilating into mainstream culture. "The Negro who was struggling upward," would need patience to find his position in a society without slavery (xiv). Washington made it apparent that he believed the Northern intervention to be of "artificial forcing," and that it was not fully followed through due to a lack of real conviction to help heal the wounds of slavery. He also states that the African-American who was aiming to pull himself up in the world faced a number of obstacles, including misunderstanding within his own community. Washington was asking his fellow African-Americans to educate themselves and to slowly assimilate themselves into the status quo, rather than revolutionizing the system itself to better accommodate their own needs. Patience, in this case would be a virtue. There is a consistent theme in Washington's work that concerns the ownership of material goods and property to the acquisition of power within the community. Slow evolution came through the implementation of public policy

Despite these differences, the two works share many things in common, including the primary intended audience. Douglass' narrative is written for a white, middle class audience. In fact, Douglass even reinforces the values and mores of his white audience. He upholds Christian values, and places himself as a Christian individual. Additionally, he calls upon the more modern values of capitalism. He claims that the institution of slavery is slanting the playing field, and taking away the slaves' right to make money within the context of a capitalistic society. Douglass' writing itself is introduced by a white author, which shows that he needed a white author to justify his narrative and Douglass' position as an educated black man to his prejudiced white audience.

Washington too, writes to a white audience. Written after the abolition of slavery during a time where there was still rampant inequality, despite the death of the institution of slavery. According to Washington, slavery was "a dark shadows that had oppressed every large-minded statesman from Jefferson to Lincoln," (xv). Both agrees with Douglass in his portrayal of it affecting all members of society, but it also appeals to the mores of the white audience who would have held Jefferson and Lincoln as heroes, despite Jefferson being a slave owner himself. African-Americans continued to be victims of slavery long after the institution was abolished. Washington also gives a heavy portrayal of African-Americans as being strong Christians, even in the days of slavery. Also like Douglass, he includes capitalistic values because he knows that they are so engrained in white popular culture. With no real father figure available in his own life, Washington focuses on the memories of his mother. Therefore, he learns industry through his mother. There is a scene where his mother is knitting him a hat, and he expands upon this by showing that his mother is who influenced his views on learning trades and making a living off of those trades. This is the physical embodiment of Douglass' concept that slavery hindered capitalism. With the abolition of slavery,

"he was permitted to labour where and for whom he pleased," (Washington 15). Thus he explains to his white audience that he is simply fulfilling the liberties of this country that they have believed in for so long.

The two also share similar views on the psychological impact of slavery. Douglass describes the horrible conditions of slavery; one of which is the rape and forced sexual relationships between slaves and their masters. As a male, he cannot express this through his own personal internal experience, like the rest of the work. Instead he uses explicit images seen in the world around him, through images like his aunt who was brutally victimized in front of him as a child (Douglass 51). In fact, Douglass uses women often to show the evils of slavery. There are numerous occasions where he emphasizes the brutality of violence against women and sexual exploitation. This extreme violence aims to shock his audience and show how good Christian women have their innocence and integrity ripped away from them through an inhumane practice. This not only exposes the increased victimization they face, but it also separates himself slightly from the role of the slave being completely victimized and dehumanized. He must maintain a certain composure of himself as a human in order to be taken as so by the white community. During… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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