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Booker Washington: the Struggle for an Education Essay

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Updated: Apr 23rd, 2021

This is a narrative by Booker Washington about his struggle to get an education. In this narrative, Booker uses a number of literary devices to bring out his message in a clear manner. In this narration, he identifies the challenges he had to face in order to save enough money to travel to Virginia. He uses flashback when he says, “As I now recall the scene of my first year… Many of them were as poor as I was, and, besides having to wrestle with their books…” (Gates and McKay 1394).

There is uniqueness in the narration of Booker about events that took place as he struggled to get an education. Most of the individuals who came across his life are described in a favorable manner. General Lewis Ruffner is presented in the essay as a mean woman who dismissed any employee who failed to meet her expectations. However, Booker portrays her as an understanding person who played a major role in his life towards becoming an educated American. He uses a descriptive narrative to bring out this fact. He says, “Lessons that I learned in the home of Mrs. Ruffner were as valuable to me as any education I have ever gotten” (Gates and McKay 1397).

Miss Mary Mackie, the headmistress of Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, was very stern, but Booker says that she became a rock in his college education. He used another descriptive narrative to paint a clear picture of her. He says, “Miss Mary F. Mackie, the headteacher to whom I have referred, proved one of my strongest and most helpful friends” (Gates and McKay 1399). As Gates and McKay observe, during that time, bullying was a common phenomenon, especially in boarding schools (1392). Booker was much younger than his colleagues. It is expected that he would mention the rough experience he had with them before they could accept him as a colleague. However, he gives very little credit to himself, his own effort that enabled him to be enrolled at this college.

One behavior presented in this article that is still common today is social segregation in our modern society. During the era of Booker, segregation was based on race. This is changing as technology creates a global community where the geographical boundary is no longer a factor that hinders movement. However, a new form of segregation is emerging that can be equated to the racial segregation that was common in the past. According to Generals, a new social setting where the haves avoid the has not is becoming very common (215). This behavioral pattern may not be pronounced as it was during the era of Booker.

However, there are places that the poor may not access simply because they social status. Tight security officers man the gates of many clubs in major cities in this country to ensure that the non-members are kept out of the compounds. Schools are emerging that are very expensive. Hence they can only be afforded by the rich. This is another form of segregation (Moore, 540). In the transport sector, this is a little more pronounced, but people have come to embrace it as a normal social setting. We have classes for the rich, the middle class, and the poor in the planes and ships.

Works Cited

Gates, Henry Louis, and Nellie McKay. The Norton Anthology of African American Literature. New York: W.W. Norton, 2004. Print.

Generals, Donald. Booker T. Washington and Progressive Education: An Experimentalist Approach to Curriculum Development and Reform. The Journal of Negro Education, 69.3 (2000): 215-234.

Moore, Jacqueline. Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, and the Struggle for Racial Uplift. The History Teacher, 37.4 (2004): 539-540.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Booker Washington: the Struggle for an Education'. 23 April.

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