Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Booker T. Washington re-thought

Jonathan Yardley writes that Robert Norrell’s Up from History: The Life of Booker T. Washington forced him to change his mind about the greatness of Washington. Yardley, who "reflexively accepted the received opinion" about him in the 60’s (that he was an "Uncle Tom") now writes: "Norrell persuades me that I was wrong." I’ve read the book and Yardley is right, it is first rate. It is good on Washington, and on the extraordinary difficulties (Booker called it the "severe American crucible") of that era, terrifying for blacks, especially in the South. There is now no question that Washington, in his character and intellect and achievements, is one of the greatest Americans.


Discussions - 1 Comment

I think this is a really good and fair interpretation of Washington, at least from the article. I liked how it is pointed out that he is not leader for 1960 but rather a man for his own day. Poeple want to ignore the fact that Washington had to deal with the very real possibility of being hung or having those around him hung. Expecting him to embrace maryrdom is terrible and diminishes all the great things he was able to do. Washington worked in secret at times to be a little more radical. His ideas made life better for a lot of poeple, and no one should diminish that. History vindicates Dubois more as confrontation did win civil rights, but people forget the very real peril Washington had to live with in the South.

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