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The Education of Booker T. Washington: American Democracy and the Idea of Race Relations

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Booker T. Washington has long held an ambiguous position in the pantheon of black leadership. Lauded by some in his own lifetime as a black George Washington, he was also derided by others as a Benedict Arnold. In The Education of Booker T. Washington, Michael West offers a major reinterpretation of one of the most complex and controversial figures in American history. Wes Booker T. Washington has long held an ambiguous position in the pantheon of black leadership. Lauded by some in his own lifetime as a black George Washington, he was also derided by others as a Benedict Arnold. In The Education of Booker T. Washington, Michael West offers a major reinterpretation of one of the most complex and controversial figures in American history. West reveals the personal and political dimensions of Washington's journey "up from slavery." He explains why Washington's ideas resonated so strongly in the post-Reconstruction era and considers their often negative influence in the continuing struggle for equality in the United States. West's work also establishes a groundwork for understanding the ideological origins of the civil rights movement and discusses Washington's views on the fate of race and nation in light of those of Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., and others. West argues that Washington's analysis was seen as offering a "solution" to the problem of racial oppression in a nation professing its belief in democracy. That solution was the idea of "race relations." In practice, this theory buttressed segregation by supposing that African Americans could prosper within Jim Crow's walls and without the normal levers by which other Americans pursued their interests. Washington did not, West contends, imagine a way to perfect democracy and an end to the segregationist policies of southern states. Instead, he offered an ideology that would obscure the injustices of segregation and preserve some measure of racial peace. White Americans, by embracing Washington's views, could comfortably find a way out of the moral and political contradictions raised by the existence of segregation in a supposedly democratic society. This was (and is) Washington's legacy: a form of analysis, at once obvious and concealed, that continues to prohibit the realization of a truly democratic politics.


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Booker T. Washington has long held an ambiguous position in the pantheon of black leadership. Lauded by some in his own lifetime as a black George Washington, he was also derided by others as a Benedict Arnold. In The Education of Booker T. Washington, Michael West offers a major reinterpretation of one of the most complex and controversial figures in American history. Wes Booker T. Washington has long held an ambiguous position in the pantheon of black leadership. Lauded by some in his own lifetime as a black George Washington, he was also derided by others as a Benedict Arnold. In The Education of Booker T. Washington, Michael West offers a major reinterpretation of one of the most complex and controversial figures in American history. West reveals the personal and political dimensions of Washington's journey "up from slavery." He explains why Washington's ideas resonated so strongly in the post-Reconstruction era and considers their often negative influence in the continuing struggle for equality in the United States. West's work also establishes a groundwork for understanding the ideological origins of the civil rights movement and discusses Washington's views on the fate of race and nation in light of those of Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., and others. West argues that Washington's analysis was seen as offering a "solution" to the problem of racial oppression in a nation professing its belief in democracy. That solution was the idea of "race relations." In practice, this theory buttressed segregation by supposing that African Americans could prosper within Jim Crow's walls and without the normal levers by which other Americans pursued their interests. Washington did not, West contends, imagine a way to perfect democracy and an end to the segregationist policies of southern states. Instead, he offered an ideology that would obscure the injustices of segregation and preserve some measure of racial peace. White Americans, by embracing Washington's views, could comfortably find a way out of the moral and political contradictions raised by the existence of segregation in a supposedly democratic society. This was (and is) Washington's legacy: a form of analysis, at once obvious and concealed, that continues to prohibit the realization of a truly democratic politics.

35 review for The Education of Booker T. Washington: American Democracy and the Idea of Race Relations

  1. 4 out of 5

    Starbubbles

    booker himself was an intersting man, but west apparently likes to hear himself talk because everything was beyond wordy. i also appreciate the attempt to more a bio more read-able by adding imagery and metaphores, but some were confusing and nost took away from the overall point. 3 stars just because booker is the only thing saving west from a low rating.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

  3. 5 out of 5

    ALEXANDRIA Lacayo

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cory

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Chant

  6. 5 out of 5

    Madison Ogletree

  7. 4 out of 5

    Yasmin

  8. 5 out of 5

    José Fusté

  9. 5 out of 5

    Pascal

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nikeeta

  11. 4 out of 5

    Meghan

  12. 4 out of 5

    ficulyus

  13. 4 out of 5

    Adrian Mendez

  14. 4 out of 5

    Em

  15. 4 out of 5

    Indiana Giordani

  16. 5 out of 5

    Gloucesterina

  17. 5 out of 5

    Theresa

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth X

  19. 5 out of 5

    Addy

  20. 4 out of 5

    Deann Lott

  21. 5 out of 5

    Eric

  22. 5 out of 5

    Spencer

  23. 5 out of 5

    Igrowastreesgrow

  24. 4 out of 5

    Monica

  25. 5 out of 5

    Cory Maloney

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jasmine Jay

  27. 4 out of 5

    Udwoda Johnson

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rooseveltpicloud.Com

  29. 4 out of 5

    Émile

  30. 5 out of 5

    Abdul-rahman Washington

  31. 4 out of 5

    Tishea

  32. 5 out of 5

    A’Dolph

  33. 5 out of 5

    Patrice Leflore

  34. 4 out of 5

    Mia

  35. 4 out of 5

    Cecilli

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