Invisible Man

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Invisible Man

Dara Kelly
Mrs. Williams
AP English 11
14 December 2011

Dara Kelly
Mrs. Williams
AP English 11
14 December 2011
Invisible Man
Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, and W.E.B. Du Bois all had their own ideas of how the black race could better itself, and these three men were all given voices by characters in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. The characters that were designed to portray these men represent their theories, thoughts, and practices. While their ideas may have conflicted, researchers agree that each of these men’s philosophies possessed strong and weak points.

Booker T. Washington was an educator, reformer, and one of the most influential black leaders during the period from 1895-1915. He has been labeled as a token Negro in the company of white heroes. He was very humble, accepted segregation, and he opposed black militancy. Washington was best known as the Negro spokesperson who accepted the Southern white demand for racial segregation. He “rejected the pursuit of political and social equality with whites,” (People & Events) and preached a philosophy of self-help, racial solidarity and accommodation.

Booker T. Washington believed that blacks should help themselves and rely on the whites, and in racial solidarity and accommodation, which means that blacks should be flexible and agree with what the whites say. (“Up From Slavery”) Washington also urged blacks to accept discrimination and use their energy to raise themselves up through hard work and material prosperity, and stated that blacks should work to win the respect of whites, in his 1895 speech “the Atlanta Compromise.” He believed in education in the crafts, industrial and farming skills and the cultivation of the virtues of patience, enterprise and thrift. This is what he said would allow African Americans to win the respect of whites, and to become fully accepted as citizens and integrated into all aspects of society. (Booker T. and W.E.B.)

Booker T. Washington’s philosophy had some strong points. One such point was when he stated that, “In all things that are purely social, we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.” (Atlanta Compromise) This statement supported Washington’s thoughts that African Americans should work hard while accepting segregation and discrimination by arguing that in return for African Americans remaining peaceful and socially separate from whites, the white community needed to accept responsibility for improving the social and economic conditions of all Americans regardless of skin color. The fingers on a hand are separated, but they all work together to get things accomplished, which is exactly how Booker T. Washington felt African Americans and whites should be.

Another strong point Washington made was with his view on education. Washington believed that having an education would be what set African Americans free. He was “…against the notion of education as a tool used merely to enable one to speak and write the English language correctly; he wanted school to be a place where one might learn to make life more endurable, and if possible, attractive…” (Booker Taliaferro Washington on Education) He also believed that “education of the head would bring even more sweeping emancipation from work with the hands,” (Booker Taliaferro Washington on Education) when it came to the post-emancipation ideologies of blacks. Washington didn’t want blacks to be ashamed of using their hands, but rather to have respect for creating something and a sense of satisfaction upon completion of that task.

While Washington’s philosophy had strong points, there were weak points as well. One of his weaker points was when he urged African Americans to “cast down your buckets where you are.” (People & Events) In this statement, Washington was encouraging African Americans to remain in the Jim Crow South and tolerate racial discrimination...
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