Was Washington’s Program for Gaining Social Acceptance for Blacks an Elitist Program?

These past few weeks I have been reading the autobiography(Up from Slavery), of Booker T. Washington. Washington was a former slave who was freed as a young child; as a freed African American he was also able to receive education. Thanks to his determination and work ethic, he was able to even start up a college like school in Alabama called the Tuskegee institute for African Americans. His school was rather like a social acceptance program; the ways he believed and taught was the way to gain social acceptance for Blacks was by giving them an education, teaching them the standards of cleanliness which he took very seriously, and also teaching them the importance of working with their hands or doing manual labor. But now was Washington’s program for gaining social acceptance for Blacks an elitist program?

To begin with, during the time that Washington lived(19th-20th century), African American’s were definitely not seen as a high class of people socially, and we’re definitely not seen as equal as White Americans by some. So by no means not considered an elitist group in society at the time. Also you have to keep in mind of the fact that elitist means in short a select group of people who have high intelligence, wealth, special skills, or experience, who are most likely to be constructive to society, and for that reason should deserve influence and authority greater than others. 

Also throughout his autobiography Washington is trying to lift up African Americans out of slavery to be accepted in the eyes of White Americans and to be seen as equals to them. He is not trying to lift African Americans up above Whites or other races, he just wants African Americans to be seen at the same level as anyone else. So along the note of the definition of elitism Washington’s program for gaining social acceptance was not an elitist program whatsoever. 

Up From Slavery, has been a very insightful and interesting autobiography to read, because it contains details on Washington’s life and also details on how he believes is the way to lift African Americans up from slavery. He didn’t believe in bringing African Americans up until a point that they were an elitist group, but instead to bring them up to the same level as the White Americans, and to be accepted and seen in the eyes of the Whites as equals.

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