Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Better Part

Booker T Washington was an educator and a reformer. He was born on April 5, 1856 in Franklin County, VA and died November 14, 1915 in Tuskegee, Ala. Between the years 1895 and 1915 he was the most influential spokesman for African-Americans. One of his major platforms was that African-Americans needed to obtain economic security through education and learning industrial skills so that they could build up wealth and culture and that would help win the respect and acceptance of the white man. In this process though the African-Americans would have to give up the fight for civil rights and essentially accept segregation until they obtained that wealth and economic security that would gain the acceptance of the white man.
In the excerpt from "The Better Part" Speech from the Peace Jubilee in Chicago on October 16, 1898 by Booker T. Washington I found the following to be very poignant:

"But there remains on other victory for Americans to win...We have succeed in every conflict except in the effort to conquer ourselves in the blotting out of racial prejudice. We can celebrate the era of peace in no more effectual way than by a firm resolve in teh part of Northern men and Southern men, black men and white man, that the trenches we together dug aroung Santiago shall be the eternal burial-place of all that separates us in our business and civil relations. Let us be as generous in peace as we have been brave in battle. Until we thus conquer ourselves...we shall have a cancer gnawing at the heart of this Republic that one day shall prove as dangerous as an atttack from an army from without or within."

I think what Booker T. Washington is trying to say is why are we able to work and live together during a war to free others from oppression but in times of peace Americans can not achieve or work toward a society in their own country where all are equal and free. I think he is also saying that if Americans cannot find a way to reslove this issue it is not an attack from an army on the outside that we need to be concerned with but we should concern ourselves with how these tensions will destroy what America stands for: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Here is another quote that I found from Booker T. Washington that I think also points out the paradox of the American society at that time:

"In all things that are purely social we can be separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress" (from a speech he deliver in Atlanta, Ga on September 18,1895)

Click here to see the program from the Peace Jubilee in Chicago.

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