Tim Dunkin
February 3, 2010
Black History Month -- who they ought to be celebrating
By Tim Dunkin

As you most likely know, February is Black History month. And as you also most likely know, the treatment which this will receive from both black Americans and white leftists will be completely misdirected and wasteful in the good which could be accomplished. Black History month, as with pretty much everything else that makes up the face of black American public participation, has become the province of race-baiting no-goods like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and their cadre of local emulators in every major city across America. Instead of taking the opportunity to celebrate the great strides that have been made by blacks in America, this month becomes just another excuse to crank up the grievance machine, extort money and guilt from gullible whites, and continue to hold black Americans back from being able to enjoy the fruits of the sacrifices made by their forefathers.

I, for one, think this is a shame. Instead of this month being an excuse to foment racial discord and to make lacks comfortable with submitting to self-imposed limitations, real contributions and real sacrifices ought to be recognized. This is why I have chosen to devote this article to celebrating Black History month by pointing the reader to the life and example of someone who black Americans would do well to imitate Booker T. Washington.

Booker Taliafero Washington was born into slavery on April 5, 1856 on a plantation in northeastern Virginia. He was of mixed parentage. His mother, whose name we know as Jane, was a slave on the plantation. His father was a white man, but Booker barely knew him. Because of his mixed race background, Booker was considered black, and was therefore also a slave. He, along with the rest of his race, was emancipated from slavery with the defeat of the Confederacy in 1865 and the passage of the Thirteen Amendment outlawing slavery.

If there are two words which would characterize Booker T. Washington, they would be "diligence" and "energy." As a young man, Washington spent several years working in the salt furnaces and coal mines of West Virginia, obtaining a reputation as a hard worker and trustworthy employee. Dissatisfied with where he was at, young Booker set out to change his station in life by means of obtaining an education. At the age of 16, he enrolled in the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, in Hampton, Virginia. Because he was poor, he had to work to pay for this education. This continued as he further his studies after Hampton, going to Wayland Seminary, in Washington, D.C. After graduating, he returned to Hampton, this time as a teacher, helping to further the educational opportunities of other black youths.

It was at this time that Washington drew the favorable attention of Samuel C. Armstrong, the president of Hampton Institute. Armstrong tapped Washington to be the first principle of the Tuskogee Institute in Alabama, a new school being organized along the pattern of the Hampton Institute.

The Tuskogee Institute is the source of much of Booker T. Washington's fame, for he remained as its head until his death in 1915. Washington's philosophy was this: blacks needed to be educated more than they needed anything else. Under his leadership, Tuskogee focused on providing blacks in the South with practical skills that would enable them to "prove their worth" to the racist Southern white society that they lived in. Washington also sought to instill into his students a sense of diligence and industry, that with hard work they could overcome any obstacles that society placed in their way. He believed that by doing so, "blacks would eventually gain full participation in society by showing themselves to be responsible, reliable American citizens."

This approach on Washington's part likely sprang from his Christian convictions. He wasn't just working for himself, or even for his fellow blacks, but for the Lord Jesus Christ. In everything he did, he did it to the glory of God, doing it heartily as unto the Lord. It is not surprising, then, to learn that a 2006 examination of his medical records showed that he likely died of hypertension contributing to congestive heart failure. He had a blood pressure twice that of normal, testifying to a lifetime of hard work and energy.

Booker T. Washington's contribution to American life was that he pointed the way, and led many IN that way, for black Americans to escape the poverty, ignorance, and degradation which a prejudiced American society in that day forced upon them. His contributions were recognized by many whites in that day many wealthy industrialists contributed to Tuskogee's endowments, and for his labors he was awarded an honorary Master's degree from Harvard in 1896, and an honorary PhD from Dartmouth in 1901. That same year, Washington was invited to the White House by President Theodore Roosevelt the first time this honor had ever been extended to a black American.

Booker T. Washington went to be with his Lord on November 14, 1915, having lived a full life devoted to a worthy cause. A fitting tribute to his life is carved into the base of the monument dedicated to him at the center of Tuskogee University's campus, "He lifted the veil of ignorance from his people and pointed the way to progress through education and industry."

If only his example had been followed by later generations. Even in his day, Washington was not without critics within the black community. Many, like W.E.B. DuBois, who founded the NAACP, criticized Washington for being "accomodationalist" for preferring the route of education over and against more direct action. This continued into the modern civil rights movement, when people like Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael succeeded in becoming the standard bearers of the movement.

And so it continues today. Education and industry are about the last things being preached to black Americans by their leaders today. Instead, the message is that blacks are "owed" something by whites, that not getting this something is racist and selfish, and that the way for the black man to get ahead is to have a hand out instead of a leg up. The message that permeates black culture is that getting a useful education (as opposed to one that involves being trained for grievance-mongering) is "acting white," it's being an Uncle Tom and an Oreo. Black Americans who work hard, overcome tremendous obstacles, and become successful (without the help of affirmative action) people like Clarence Thomas and Condoleeza Rice are perceived as sellouts.

Let's be frank here, Booker T. Washington would be astounded in a negative way by the state of much of black America today. The black family has been all but destroyed. Welfare dependency, illegitimacy, and crime run rampant. Education in the sciences and the arts is despised, and many young black men pin their hopes in life on being able to run a ball or shoot one through a hoop. The popular entertainment is dominated by a thug culture that defies authority, objectifies women, and glorifies wickedness and violence. No, Washington wouldn't recognize the bulk of today's "black culture" as anything he wanted to have a part of.

My advice take it or leave it, it's your choice would be for black Americans to consider going back to the roots that Booker T. Washington tried to lay down so long ago. The present course being followed, with Jesse Jackson manning the wheel, and Al Sharpton tugging the rudder, is on a self-destruct course that is doing anything but endearing the rest of the country to them. No matter how many race cards get played, this will be the case. Ironically, the "civil rights movement" is going to destroy the future of race relations in America. Mr. Washington would not have wanted it to be that way.

© Tim Dunkin

 

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Tim Dunkin

Tim Dunkin is a pharmaceutical chemist by day, and a freelance author by night, writing about a wide range of topics on religion and politics. He is the author of an online book about Islam entitled Ten Myths About Islam, and is the founder and editor of Conservative Underground, a bi-weekly email newsletter focusing on foundational conservative worldview and philosophy. He is a born-again Christian, and a member of a local, New Testament Baptist church in North Carolina. He can be contacted at tqcincinnatus@yahoo.com. All emails may be monitored by the NSA for quality assurance purposes.

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