Quotable Literary Quotes: Booker T. Washington

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I’ve been ruminating on the work, life and philosophy of Booker T. Washington ever since I posted this Jason Whitlock video as my last Friday Fave. To that end, I thought it would be good to begin the week with some of the most profound quotes from his autobiography, Up From Slavery.

His thoughts on education:

“Education is not a thing apart from life—not a “system,” nor a philosophy; it is direct teaching how to live and how to work.”
 
This shouldn’t be novel, but it feels like it in this current zeitgeist. More:
 
“The ambition to secure an education was most praiseworthy and encouraging. The idea, however, was too prevalent that, as soon as one secured a little education, in some unexplainable way he would be free from most of the hardships of the world, and, at any rate, could live without manual labour.”
 
I loved that, because it speaks well to our current situation, where education is not a means of personal development in life or training in productive citizenship, but as a way to get out of having to work hard. Shame on us for propagating a hatred of hard work!
 
I recognize that in a cognitive economy, manual labor is prohibitive as a means of making a living. However, that’s a different matter from raising an entire generation of people who are unwilling to engage in manual labor, both due to lack of skill as well as on principle.
 
On the subject of the role and limitations of government:
 
“Among a large class, there seemed to be a dependence upon the government for every conceivable thing. The members of this class had little ambition to create a position for themselves, but wanted the federal officials to create one for them.”
 
He offers an alternative solution:
 
“How many times I wished then and have often wished since, that by some power of magic, I might remove the great bulk of these people into the country districts and plant them upon the soil – upon the solid and never deceptive foundation of Mother Nature, where all nations and races that have ever succeeded have gotten their start – a start that at first may be slow and toilsome, but one that nevertheless is real.”
 
Washington again points out the place which is a truly level playing field, in the real world, in the dirt, working hard. More:
 
“I have begun everything with the idea that I could succeed, and I never had much patience with the multitudes of people who are always ready to explain why one cannot succeed.”
 
So much for victimhood, but when you read Up From Slavery, it becomes painfully apparent why Booker T. Washington is held in low regard by many progressives. Despite the amazing work he did with the newly freed slaves and the exceptional accomplishments he achieved The Tuskegee Institute, his failure to fully embrace a narrative which denied the God-given agency of black Americans still relegates him to the fringes of the historical black American record. And that’s too bad.
 
Hope this provided food for thought.
 
Happy Monday, all!
 
 

 

Word Nerd Wednesday: Peter Mark Roget

Roget's Thesaurus

Anyone who spends time reading books, learning about books, and writing about the same is, by definition, a lover of language and the words upon which our language is built. This might be rather presumptuous, but I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that anyone who has stuck with me throughout the duration of this online experiment is equally fascinated by language and what we can learn from it.

While riding in the car, soaking up the smooth sound of Mike Rowe unraveling the mysteries and histories of familiar personalities, this particular episode of his podcast piqued my curiosity in a way that few have: Call It What You Will.

Click the link to listen to it. It’s less than 10 minutes -most of the episodes are- and nothing I offer hear could compare to the enjoyment of hearing Rowe’s delivery of this little known story. Nonetheless, long after I disconnected from my car’s BlueTooth and embarked on the other activities of the day, I remained infinitely curious about the genius who provided us with the first Thesaurus of note in 1852.

oroiginal roget's thesaurus

After cursory research, I determined that Roget is worthy of infinitely more than a short feature on an obscure, little-known, barely read blog. This, however, is all I have to offer. This, and a strong suggestion that you look into Peter Roget at your leisure.

Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869) was a British physician, lexicographer, and natural theologian.  The fact that he was a natural theologian, documenting all the ways the natural world supports the existence of our Creator, was an aspect of his history that I was wholly unfamiliar with. Once considered, the connections seem obvious; at least to me. A physician who is a natural theologian and lexicographer, concerned with words, what they mean, and how they are used.

Roget experienced his share of tragedy in life, as many of us do, and with that, he was drawn ever more deeply into unraveling the mysteries of the natural world, of seeing the order of God in what was often the chaos of life. With each observation, he produced more and more pages of words, information, and inventions. Here are just a few things we can attribute to the work of PeterMark Roget:

  • Discovery of nitrous oxide’s usefulness as an anesthetic
  • The slide rule, which calculated the roots and powers of numbers and was the forerunner to the calculator
  • Original author of articles and research for Encyclopedia Britannica
  • Numerous papers on optics and “optical deception”

In 1840, Roget retired from medicine and dedicated the rest of his life to compiling the volume that earned him the dubious honor of being the subject of this post; Roget’s Thesaurus.

I hope you enjoyed this initial ‘Word Nerd Wednesday”!