Up From Slavery! (if the book had been published in the last few decades, they would have put an exclamation point on it)

I picked up Booker T. Washington’s “Up From Slavery” today at the used bookstore. I purchased it primarily because of one section I read while skimming it. There are two parts of interest in this one section. The following single line:

I am glad to add, however, that at the present time the disposition to vote against the white man merely because he is white is largely disappearing, and the race is learning to vote from principle, for what the voter considers to be for the best interests of both races.

If indeed this was the case, it’s possible that things have reverted tremendously.

And this next section:

I ate and slept with the people, in their little cabins. I saw their farms, their schools, their churches… In the plantation districts I found that, as a rule the whole family slept in one room…

…At times I have eaten in cabins where they had only corn bread and ” black-eye peas” cooked in plain water. …notwithstanding the fact that the land all about the cabin homes could easily have been made to produce nearly every kind of garden vegetable that is raised anywhere in the country. Their one object seemed to be to plant nothing but cotton, amd in many cases cotton was planted up to the very door of the cabin.

In these cabin homes I often found sewing-machines which had been bought, or were being bought, on installments, frequently at a cost of as much as sixty dollars, or showy clocks for which the occupants of the cabins had paid twelve or fourteen dollars. I remember that on one occasion when I went into one of these cabins for dinner, when I sat down to the table for a meal with the four members of the family, I noticed that, while there were five of us at the table, there was but one fork for the five of us to use. Naturally there was an awkward pause on my part. In the opposite corner of that same cabin was an organ for which the people told me they were paying sixty dollars in monthly instalments. One fork, and a sixty-dollar organ!

In most cases the sewing-machine was not used, the clocks were so worthless that they did not keep correct time — and if they had, in nine cases out of ten there would have been no one in the family who could have told the time of day — while the organ, of course, was rarely used for want of a person who could play upon it.

The above was taken from Google Books OCRing, so though I cleaned up a few eggregious errors, there may be some more. I also truncated it so that the important information was conveyed while still retaining essential context, and I added the bold for emphasis.

It gripped me because just recently I was listening to a discussion of “The Theory of the Leisure Class” and an attack upon the  “conspicuous consumption” of the upper classes to flaunt their wealth. I’ve heard it fairly recently used to describe the buying habits of poor urban blacks, with their seeming predilection for high-end looking “bling”, “rims” and “kicks”.

That’s it.

For now…

Related posts:

  1. Interesting excerpts from “Up from Slavery” by Booker T. Washington… (updated)