Up From History

Now that the US has an African American president what does civil rights activist Booker T. Washington still offer?

"Once the most famous and influential African American in the United States (and probably the world), Booker T. Washington has earned at best mixed reviews in the decades since his death in 1915. Black intellectuals and political activists, from W. E. B. Du Bois to the present day, have generally seen Washington as a conservative racial accommodationist, yielding to the repressive power of Jim Crow and urging American blacks to abandon their political struggles for equality and instead to set their sights on a future of manual labor and petty property ownership," says The New Republic setting the scene for a discussion of a new biography of Washington. It asks: "Now that we are in the Age of Obama, when a man of African descent who set his sights on higher education and threw himself into grassroots politics--in short, who did many of the things that Washington advised against--has been elected president of the United States, do we really need to reacquaint ourselves with the likes of Booker T. Washington? Do his life and views any longer have meaning for us? Do we need another biography?"

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