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The Making of African American Identity: Volume II, 1865-1917
Topic: FreedomTopic: IdentityTopic: InstitutionsTopic: PoliticsTopic: Forward
Topic: Freedom
Toolbox Overview: The Making of African American Identity: Volume II, 1865-1917
Resource Menu: Freedom
Text 1. The Moment of Freedom
Text 2. Booker T. Washington
» Reading Guide
•  Link


Text 3. W.E.B. Du Bois
Text 4. Charles W. Chesnutt
Text 5. Citizens
Text 6. Reconstruction
Text 7. Migration
RESOURCE MENU » Reading Guide Link

Reading Guide
2.  Booker T. Washington, Up from Slavery: An Autobiography, 1901, ch. 1-3
- Ch. 1: "A Slave among Slaves"
- Ch. 2: "Boyhood Days"
- Ch. 3: "The Struggle for an Education"
    Booker T. Washington

At the age of 8 or 9, Booker T. Washington joined his fellow slaves on a Virginia plantation to hear their freedom announced by a Union officer. "We had been expecting it," Washington writes. "Freedom was in the air." But as he explains in these chapters, "freedom was a more serious thing than they had expected to find it." Daring to leave the plantation, providing for one's daily needs, deciding on a name, pursuing an education—plus the more elusive task of creating an identity with no sense of one's ancestry—these challenges were daunting, no matter how welcomed. Washington weaves his own experiences with those of the millions of newly emancipated persons who were slave one day, free the next. Valuable to compare with the memories of former slaves interviewed in the 1930s. 20 pages.


Discussion questions
  1. What was "the great responsibility of being free" that faced the emancipated slaves? Contrast Washington's view with those in the WPA slave narratives.
  2. What new thoughts and experiences, though seemingly mundane, brought home the reality of freedom?
  3. What messages does Washington embed for his fellow African Americans in Up from Slavery?
  4. How does he moderate his tone—and adjust his content—for his white audience? Is this expedient and realistic, or submissive and self-defeating?
  5. On what terms should we "judge" Washington's message?

» Link


Topic Framing Questions
  •  What challenges did the newly freed African Americans face immediately after the Civil War?
  •  What did freedom mean to the newly freed?
  •  What resources did recently emancipated African Americans possess as they assumed life as free men and women?
  •  How did African Americans define and exercise power in their first years of freedom?




Toolbox: The Making of African American Identity: Volume II, 1865-1917
Freedom | Identity | Institutions | Politics | Forward


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