CHAPTER I DR. BILL E. LAWSON, Philosophy Scholar Bill E. Lawson is distinguished professor of philosophy at the University of Memphis. He received his PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his professional appointments include Spelman College, West Virginia University, and the University of Delaware. My general sense of Booker T. Washington is that he was committed to the betterment of black people in the United States and that he was very forward-looking and insightful. I think people often fail to appreciate his insights, particularly with regard to race relations. People need to view Washington as a pragmatist in the John Dewey sense of pragmatism, where you're really working to solve a significant problem. Washington's problem was: How do you resolve or improve race relations between black people and white people in the South, given the history of race and racism in the United States at that particular point in history? He thought that the best way to do that was for the races to work together, and in order to accomplish that, black people had to be able to bring something to the table. That's what building Tuskegee Institute was about: bringing something to the table. Some people think that his position demeaned black people, but while Washington did acknowledge that there were blacks that deserved respect because of their accomplishments, those were not the blacks he was trying to reach. Washington never denied the humanity of black people. I am defending Booker T. Washington because many black intellectuals seem to be against him without any knowledge of his writings or life. During the 1960s, when black nationalism became the rage, people read certain select things. Subsequently, most people know or have read only three things about Booker T. Washington at best: Up from Slavery, the Atlanta Exposition speech, and "Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others," the essay by W. E. B. Du Bois. Sometimes they know the Dudley Randall poem "Booker T. and W. E. B." If you read Up from Slavery in isolation from Washington's other works, then I do think that you will get a skewed view of who and what he was. But when you read Working with the Hands, My Larger Education, The Man Farthest Down, the biography he wrote of Frederick Douglass, or his letters and read what he wrote about his projects, you come away with a completely different view of what Washington was trying to do. For example, Washington never said, as many have claimed, that black people should get only an industrial education. He never said that black people shouldn't participate in the political process. What he did say was, blacks should be able to secure education consistent with their ability, and if there are going to be voting requirements made for black people, the same requirements should be made for white people. He also said that the electorate should be literate; people should be able to read and write if they're going to participate in the political process. But we should consider the historical moment; it was a time when many white people were predisposed to dislike black people. Washington understood that black people had to overcome the strong dislike of some whites, while simultaneously working with the white people who were concerned with the advancement of black people. Did most white people want to have the kind of social interaction with black people that we take for granted now? No! It's not really a matter of whether black people wanted to have social interaction with white people. If you are a leader, you have a vision of how these things should play out and what programs will work best for the group you're serving. Washington's was not a consensus program. It was a program rooted in what he took to be the needs of the black southern masses at that moment in history. I also believe that Washington's leaderCarroll, Rebecca is the author of 'Uncle Tom or New Negro? African Americans Reflect on Booker T. Washington And Up from Slavery One Hundred Years Later', published 2006 under ISBN 9780767919555 and ISBN 0767919556.