Booker T Washington and Frederick Douglass: Different Ways of Fights for Equality

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Since the establishment of our great nation, slavery has always contradicted our beliefs of equality. For hundreds of years, slavery threw millions of innocet Americans into lives of misery, and even after abolishment it continues to infest our country with extreme detriment. Trying to hear the cries echoed by millions of blacks and lifted by those who experienced slavery allows us to try and understand the nightmares they were unrighteously forced to endure. Two of the most prominent voices that fought for racial equality were those of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington. The works of these two authors effectively portray the affects of slavery even to this day. However, despite the common effect, there were large differences in their methods of influence.

Firstly, their primary messages were unalike. On one hand, Douglass was blowing a horn for a radical assailment to kill slavery and raze the flagrant bigots. As a child, Douglass witnessed brutal whippings of various slaves— male and female, old and young— upon the plantation of Colonel Edward Lloyd. However, he did not experience a unique childhood. Such a tragic upbringing was very common amongst the slaves. ‘My own treatment . . . was very similar to that of the other slave children.’ (Douglass 26) ‘I had no bed. I would sleep on the cold, damp, clay floor, with my head in a sack for carrying corn and feet out.” (Douglass 27) At age seven, Douglass was sent to work for a ship carpenter in Baltimore, only to return to the plantation eight years later. However, as he grows older he begins to resist the tyranny of slavery more forcefully. His heart is hardened towards the whites as he is broken, beaten, and battered time and time again.

On the other hand, Washington was peacefully suggesting for a slow assimilation into the white society. His story began on a plantation in Franklin County, Virginia. Before he was even ten years of age, following the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War, Washington and his family moved to Malden, Virginia, where Washington’s stepfather secures work at a salt-furnace. The first few years out of slavery proved a challenge for the family, but Washington was a curious, ambitious child and pursued his academic desires. He went on to further his education greatly and influence the nation’s progress towards a system of equality greatly.

However, Washington was never forced to survive the gruesome upbringing of many other slave children. He was released from bondage before he could find a true hatred toward the white race. Therefore, his heart was less hardened, and his approach towards achieving equality was less emotional and vengeful, and more intellectually based and idealistic. The different upbringings of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington greatly influenced their views, thus additionally greatly impacting their primary messages.

The second large difference in the methods of influence of Douglass and Washington is their writing style. Douglass speaks to his audience with an academically advanced tone, intentionally demonstrating his extensive understanding of linguistics, despite being a formerly uneducated slave. Additionally, his message is extremely well articulated and controlled. There are extremely scarce moments he allows for utterances of emotion.

This advanced writing tool engages his audience’s intellectual abilities, encouraging a logical approach rather than an otherwise irrational and mindless attack upon the white race. In fact, there are many instances of Douglass using logical reasoning to demonstrate the flaws in the practice of slavery. He is able to use words to show his two selves— the freeman and the slave. With intricately selected text, he effectively allows his audience to understand his condition under slavery, as well as his desire to break himself and others free from the chains that bound him.

Contropositionally, Washington is more subdued in his use of language. Although highly educated himself, his tone comes across as more conversational. Washington himself said, “I have tried to tell a simple, straightforward story, with no attempt at embellishment.” (Washington vii) Though he speaks his mind and discourages racism through his writings, Washington unquestionably proves a little soft in terms of demanding equality, whereas Douglass was clearly calling for a civilized, but necessary revolution.

The third and final primary contrariety between Douglass and Washington’s methods of influence are the general purpose’s behind their messages. Despite the violence seen in the work itself, Douglass takes a logical, strong, non-violent approach against slavery. In fact, the only time he uses violence is strictly when absolutely necessary in defending his well being. Thus, Douglass is calling for a major step— not only for abolition of slavery, but for the slaves themselves to work towards achieving a stable living for their family, gaining an education, and returning to manhood.

This intention behind his message is not shared with Washington, who believed that a revolution was not necessary— but that the black community should slowly assimilate into mainstream culture. Washington said, “The Negro are struggling upward.” (Washington xiv) He believed that patience was the key to finding a place in society— that rather than a radical adjustment, he asked his fellow African-Americans to educate themselves and slowly enter the system. Additionally, he declared the Northern intervention of the Emancipation Proclamation to be artificial and lacking the true conviction required to heal the scars of slavery. In summary, his purpose behind his message was to demonstrate that slow evolution would bring about the implementation of public policies providing blacks with rights.

Therefore, the intentions behind their messages were different. However, ultimately, though their methods of influence varied, their ultimate intent to achieve equality in our nation was the same. Despite their different messages, writing styles, and purposes— they were both fighting against the slavery that plagues their own lives, and the racism that corrupts America to this day. The two did indeed live in different time periods, had different experiences, and held different beliefs, but their voices rang throughout history; as echoes shout the same sound from different places, Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington used their voices to fight the same fight in different ways. Without them and the ideas they presented, many others might not have been encouraged to fight against slavery and to inspire change in our great nation.

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Booker T Washington and Frederick Douglass: Different Ways of Fights for Equality. (2021, Dec 24). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/booker-t-washington-and-frederick-douglass-different-ways-of-fights-for-equality/

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