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Up from Slavery (Anglais) Broché – 23 février 1996

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I was born a slave on a plantation in Franklin County, Virginia. I am not quite sure of the exact place or exact date of my birth, but at any rate I suspect I must have been born somewhere and at some time. As nearly as I have been able to learn, I was born near a cross-roads post-office called Hale's Ford, and the year was 1858 or 1859.* I do not know the month or the day. The earliest impressions I can now recall are of the plantation and the slave quarters—the latter being the part of the plantation where the slaves had their cabins.

*According to Louis H. Harlan's Booker T. Washington: The Making of a Black Leader, 1856-1901, Washington was born in 1856.

My life had its beginning in the midst of the most miserable, desolate, and discouraging surroundings. This was so, however, not because my owners were especially cruel, for they were not, as compared with many others. I was born in a typical log cabin, about fourteen by sixteen feet square. In this cabin I lived with my mother and a brother and sister till after the Civil War, when we were all declared free.

Of my ancestry I know almost nothing. In the slave quarters, and even later, I heard whispered conversations among the coloured people of the tortures which the slaves, including, no doubt, my ancestors on my mother's side, suffered in the middle passage of the slave ship while being conveyed from Africa to America. I have been unsuccessful in securing any information that would throw any accurate light upon the history of my family beyond my mother. She, I remember, had a half-brother and a half-sister. In the days of slavery not very much attention was given to family history and family records—that is, black family records. My mother, I suppose, attracted the attention of a purchaser who was afterward my owner and hers. Her addition to the slave family attracted about as much attention as the purchase of a new horse or cow. Of my father I know even less than of my mother. I do not even know his name. I have heard reports to the effect that he was a white man who lived on one of the near-by plantations. Whoever he was, I never heard of his taking the least interest in me or providing in any way for my rearing. But I do not find especial fault with him. He was simply another unfortunate victim of the institution which the Nation unhappily had engrafted upon it at that time.

The cabin was not only our living-place, but was also used as the kitchen for the plantation. My mother was the plantation cook. The cabin was without glass windows; it had only openings in the side which let in the light, and also the cold, chilly air of winter. There was a door to the cabin—that is, something that was called a door—but the uncertain hinges by which it was hung, and the large cracks in it, to say nothing of the fact that it was too small, made the room a very uncomfortable one. In addition to these openings there was, in the lower right-hand corner of the room, the "cat-hole,"—a contrivance which almost every mansion or cabin in Virginia possessed during the ante-bellum period. The "cat-hole" was a square opening, about seven by eight inches, provided for the purpose of letting the cat pass in and out of the house at will during the night. In the case of our particular cabin I could never understand the necessity for this convenience, since there were at least a half-dozen other places in the cabin that would have accommodated the cats. There was no wooden floor in our cabin, the naked earth being used as a floor. In the centre of the earthen floor there was a large, deep opening covered with boards, which was used as a place in which to store sweet potatoes during the winter. An impression of this potato-hole is very distinctly engraved upon my memory, because I recall that during the process of putting the potatoes in or taking them out I would often come into possession of one or two, which I roasted and thoroughly enjoyed. There was no cooking-stove on our plantation, and all the cooking for the whites and slaves my mother had to do over an open fireplace, mostly in pots and "skillets." While the poorly built cabin caused us to suffer with cold in the winter, the heat from the open fireplace in summer was equally trying.

The early years of my life, which were spent in the little cabin, were not very different from those of thousands of other slaves. My mother, of course, had little time in which to give attention to the training of her children during the day. She snatched a few moments for our care in the early morning before her work began, and at night after the day's work was done. One of my earliest recollections is that of my mother cooking a chicken late at night, and awakening her children for the purpose of feeding them. How or where she got it I do not know. I presume, however, it was procured from our owner's farm. Some people may call this theft. If such a thing were to happen now, I should condemn it as theft myself. But taking place at the time it did, and for the reason that it did, no one could ever make me believe that my mother was guilty of thieving. She was simply a victim of the system of slavery. I cannot remember having slept in a bed until after our family was declared free by the Emancipation Proclamation. Three children—John, my older brother, Amanda, my sister, and myself—had a pallet on the dirt floor, or, to be more correct, we slept in and on a bundle of filthy rags laid upon the dirt floor.

I was asked not long ago to tell something about the sports and pastimes that I engaged in during my youth. Until that question was asked it had never occurred to me that there was no period of my life that was devoted to play. From the time that I can remember anything, almost every day of my life has been occupied in some kind of labour; though I think I would now be a more useful man if I had had time for sports. During the period that I spent in slavery I was not large enough to be of much service, still I was occupied most of the time in cleaning the yards, carrying water to the men in the fields, or going to the mill, to which I used to take the corn, once a week, to be ground. The mill was about three miles from the plantation. This work I always dreaded. The heavy bag of corn would be thrown across the back of the horse, and the corn divided about evenly on each side; but in some way, almost without exception, on these trips, the corn would so shift as to become unbalanced and would fall off the horse, and often I would fall with it. As I was not strong enough to reload the corn upon the horse, I would have to wait, sometimes for many hours, till a chance passer-by came along who would help me out of my trouble. The hours while waiting for some one were usually spent in crying. The time consumed in this way made me late in reaching the mill, and by the time I got my corn ground and reached home it would be far into the night. The road was a lonely one, and often led through dense forests. I was always frightened. The woods were said to be full of soldiers who had deserted from the army, and I had been told that the first thing a deserter did to a Negro boy when he found him alone was to cut off his ears. Besides, when I was late in getting home I knew I would always get a severe scolding or a flogging.

I had no schooling whatever while I was a slave, though I remember on several occasions I went as far as the schoolhouse door with one of my young mistresses to carry her books. The picture of several dozen boys and girls in a schoolroom engaged in study made a deep impression upon me, and I had the feeling that to get into a schoolhouse and study in this way would be about the same as getting into paradise.

So far as I can now recall, the first knowledge that I got of the fact that we were slaves, and that freedom of the slaves was being discussed, was early one morning before day, when I was awakened by my mother kneeling over her children and fervently praying that Lincoln and his armies might be successful, and that one day she and her children might be free. In this connection I have never been able to understand how the slaves throughout the South, completely ignorant as were the masses so far as books or newspapers were concerned, were able to keep themselves so accurately and completely informed about the great National questions that were agitating the country. From the time that Garrison, Lovejoy, and others began to agitate for freedom, the slaves throughout the South kept in close touch with the progress of the movement. Though I was a mere child during the preparation for the Civil War and during the war itself, I now recall the many late-at-night whispered discussions that I heard my mother and the other slaves on the plantation indulge in. These discussions showed that they understood the situation, and that they kept themselves informed of events by what was termed the "grape-vine" telegraph.

During the campaign when Lincoln was first a candidate for the Presidency, the slaves on our far-off plantation, miles from any railroad or large city or daily newspaper, knew what the issues involved were. When war was begun between the North and the South, every slave on our plantation felt and knew that, though other issues were discussed, the primal one was that of slavery. Even the most ignorant members of my race on the remote plantations felt in their hearts, with a certainty that admitted of no doubt, that the freedom of the slaves would be the one great result of the war, if the Northern armies conquered. Every success of the Federal armies and every defeat of the Confederate forces was watched with the keenest and most intense interest. Often the slaves got knowledge of the results of great battles before the white people received it. This news was usually gotten from the coloured man who was sent to the post-office for the mail. In our case the post-office was about three miles from the plantation, and the mail came once or twice a week.The man who was sent to the office would linger about the place long enough to get the drift of the conversation from the group of white people who naturally congregated there, after receiving their mail, to discuss the latest news. The mail-carrier on his way back to our master's house would as naturally retail the news that he had secured among the slaves, and in this way they often heard of important events before the white people at the "big house," as the master's house was called.

I cannot remember a single instance during my childhood or early boyhood when our entire family sat down to the table together, and God's blessing was asked, and the family ate a meal in a civilized manner. On the plantation in Virginia, and even later, meals were gotten by the children very much as dumb animals get theirs. It was a piece of bread here and a scrap of meat there. It was a cup of milk at one time and some potatoes at another. Sometimes a portion of our family would eat out of the skillet or pot, while some one else would eat from a tin plate held on the knees, and often using nothing but the hands with which to hold the food. When I had grown to sufficient size, I was required to go to the "big house" at meal-times to fan the flies from the table by means of a large set of paper fans operated by a pulley. Naturally much of the conversation of the white people turned upon the subject of freedom and the war, and I absorbed a good deal of it. I remember that at one time I saw two of my young mistresses and some lady visitors eating ginger-cakes, in the yard. At that time those cakes seemed to me to be absolutely the most tempting and desirable things that I had ever seen; and I then and there resolved that, if I ever got free, the height of my ambition would be reached if I could get to the point where I could secure and eat ginger-cakes in the way that I saw those ladies doing.

Of course as the war was prolonged the white people, in many cases, often found it difficult to secure food for themselves. I think the slaves felt the deprivation less than the whites, because the usual diet for the slaves was corn bread and pork, and these could be raised on the plantation; but coffee, tea, sugar, and other articles which the whites had been accustomed to use could not be raised on the plantation, and the conditions brought about by the war frequently made it impossible to secure these things. The whites were often in great straits. Parched corn was used for coffee, and a kind of black molasses was used instead of sugar. Many times nothing was used to sweeten the so-called tea and coffee.

From the eBook edition. --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

Revue de presse

"It remains one of the most important works on such an influential African-American leader."--Professor Delia Crutchfield Cook, University of Maryland, KC
"This book is a must read."--Professor Warren C. Swindell, Indiana State University
"This book is definitely a classic and I have used every year im my African-American history course."--Professor W. Marvin Dulaney, College of Charleston
"Reading 'Up From Slavery' has provided my students with an opportunity to encounter a key figure in African American history on his own terms. It has provided them with greater insight into the mind of this man and his times."--C. Matthew Hawkins, Carlow College
"This is a very useful edition of one of the most important primary sources in African American history. Andrews sets it in context in a first-rate introduction." --Roy E. Finkenbine, Hampton University
--Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

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Format: Broché
Article relativement bien écrit, mais à le lire on a l'impression que tout est au mieux dans le Sud. Il ne veut pas trop bousculer l'âme de l'homme blanc il ne veut pas trop réveiller sa conscience sur la déshumanisation de l'homme de couleur.Pourquoi? il a reçu trop de faveur financières pour créer son institut.Alors on cherche à ménager la chèvre et le chou.Non malgré toutes ses leçons de réconciliations on voit bien derrière ses écrits un désir d'être reconnu et accepté par l'homme blanc.Il n'a rien de Frédéric Douglas qui n'a pas chercher à plaire mais à dire la vérité et ramener la conscience de l'homme blanc à son niveau.
Il cherche et veut tendre à lui ressembler tout en montrant qu'il a une meilleure place mais FD est un GENIE lui disons.. c'est un bon Héros ou a good domestic nigger;
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Par Ka le 14 février 2011
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Très informatif, j'aime la narration qui allie description de la vie quotidienne des esclaves, tout en la mettant en relation avec les changements politiques de cette époque.
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Pourquoi ça prend aussi temps pour recevoir mon livre Up tfrom he Slavery?

Normalement c'est plus rapide. Je n'ai pas encore d'expérience avec le livre raison pour laquelle je suis anxieux pour pouvoir lire mon lore qui prend du temps à arriver. Quand même je vousdonne 5 étoiles avec l'exectatove de recevoir demain mn livre.
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Par Mag S. le 16 avril 2013
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J'ai trouvé ce livre rasoir. L'histoire de Booker T. Washington est remarquable par bien des côtés mais sa façon de raconter est très ennuyeuse. Je n'ai pas du tout aimé.
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Amazon.com: HASH(0x91cd6e88) étoiles sur 5 382 commentaires
95 internautes sur 97 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x91c77b58) étoiles sur 5 Not Just for African Americans 5 novembre 2001
Par Michael P Foley - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
What is most striking about Washington's autobiographical account of his rise from slavery to revered statesman is his lack of resentment toward white culture. Rather than focus on what whites should do to uplift blacks, Washington encouraged blacks to take individual agency over their lives. He believed the best way for blacks to achieve social parity was to become indispensable members of the communities in which they lived. His absolute confidence in black resilience would probably be regarded as naive in today's political discourse. And yet the long list of his (and all black culture's) achievements during this period are unmistakable and nothing short of inspiring.
It's a shame this book is on the African American Studies shelf. The lessons from Washington's life apply to all humans, not just blacks. This book would be an excellent addition high school reading lists as a model of the values consonant with personal success.
79 internautes sur 83 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x91c77ca8) étoiles sur 5 A classic with relevant lessons for today 23 mars 2000
Par R. K. McInish - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
I found this to be a most amazing work. In telling the story of going from a child of slavery to the founder and president of the Tuskegee institute, Mr. Washington illustrates for us the life-lessons which can empower any individual or race in our free society today.
Namely, look to your neighbor in love, not anger; recognize the nobility in working hard for something rather than expecting charity; be willing to give yourself to a greater cause; believe that people are capable of great things and they will live up to your expectations; recognize the importance of education, not just of the mind, but of the body and soul as well; recognize that any man who provides value to the community in which he lives will be accepted and even welcomed into that community; and above all, trust in God to care for your needs.
I highly recommend this book as a testament to the positive result of thinking from a perspective of Love and Abundance rather than Anger and Scarcity. When Mr. Washington's humility is measured against his accomplishments, he becomes in my eyes one of the greatest Americans to have lived.
64 internautes sur 68 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x91c77fe4) étoiles sur 5 the beautiful Booker Taliaferro Washington 4 février 2004
Par illyz - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Let me start off by saying I'm a 16 year old female...
Upon looking through the history section of the store I discovered "Up From Slavery", the autobiography of Booker T. Washington. I could easily recall reading about him in US history. Interested, I decided to buy it.. Well I ended up staying up all night reading this book.
Washington entails his life story of endeavers and prosperity gained. He describes of how he raised himself up from slavery through sacrifices and struggles. With the self-reward of obtaining education he decided to develope the Tuskegee Institution to help further educate his peoples. As well he established a bond between, not only blacks and whites, but southerners and northerners (during post-civil war times). He talks on how as people, one should educate themselves not only in books but in labor as well. In doing so, one will achieve full-on success.
"Up from Slavery" enlightened me so much more on Washington and his role in shaping the free life we as americans, live today. I have gained an enormous amount of respect for this intriguingly compelling man. I really do feel a great sensation of pride in our history when I think about Washington and his achievements for this nation. Beautiful.
33 internautes sur 35 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x91c77b10) étoiles sur 5 Very important book about a great and misunderstood American 4 février 1999
Par stevejd@hotcoco.infi.net - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Everyone should read "Up From Slavery" by Booker T. Washington. Washington was one of the most outstanding people in our history. If he lived today he probably would become President and be one of our greatest Presidents. He had an iron will to achieve his goals in life and to do something to help his people. He started in life in slavery, born to a single mother. Later on he was abused and exploted by his step-father. He overcame tremendous hardships to get an education. He then dedicated his life to helping other African-Americans to improve their lives. He is often criticized for compromising too much with the white establishment. I think however that people need to understand the difficulties of his time and also his way of trying to change people indirectly rather than through direct confrontation. "Up From Slavery" is a great example of this. It is also fun to read. I have a personal reason for liking Washington. In World War II my father was in the Air Corps. For some time the bomber he flew in was protected by the famous Tuskeegee Airmen who were trained at Tuskeegee Institute, founded by Washington. The Tuskeegee Airmen never lost a plane that they escorted. So you see, if it hadn't been for Booker T. Washington I might not be here.
54 internautes sur 61 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x91c7a4bc) étoiles sur 5 Booker T. Lost, But Who Won? 12 avril 2005
Par M. Rasheed - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
Over the years, being aware of the great rivalry between Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Dubois I had grown used to Dubois followers saying Booker T. was an accommodationalist Uncle Tom, and other similar statements. I read Up from Slavery as a teenager, and I didn't get that impression from him at the time, so I usually dismissed people's negativity about him as misunderstanding. Having recently re-read the book, it made a far stronger impression on me as an adult and I feel compelled to give my own opinion, especially since the old "accommodationalist Uncle Tom" reviews are also on this site.

The time period after the slaves were freed was known as Reconstruction. The former slaves were both scared as to what the future held and deeply excited to experience this concept of freedom with the fire and enthusiasm of the Newly Born. For the most part they were very ignorant of their past, of how to establish themselves as a thriving community, how to interact with their white neighbors in a way beneficial to all and how to best use their money and time to grow as individuals. The whites were equally scared as to what the future held (change is often scary) but they were also excited for the former slaves and 100% wished them well. Yes, this was also the time period that formed the KKK, but evil racists were always around and thankfully, then as now, are in the minority.

As Booker T. explained, both the owner and the owned had been damaged by the chattel slavery institution. Because the lowest member of society was the slave to whom all menial labor was delegated to, both races saw work/labor as something to be avoided. The whites saw it as something that was beneath them, while the blacks felt they should rise up above it as free men. For them, "freedom" meant `I no longer have to work hard.' The blacks felt that if they could get an education they could "live by their wits" by teaching, being politicians, preaching or any other profession that required thinking for money, so that they would never have to perform physical work/labor with their hands again. They suffered from many misconceptions as to what made a free person successful, such as purchasing a very expensive item that they couldn't afford as a status symbol to show that they've "made it" even going into severe debt to have it. They felt that intensive study into Latin or Greek languages somehow made them superior to other people and that mastery in these fields also proved that they had "made it."

Booker T. and Dubois created two models designed to help pull the race forward as a free and successful people.

1.) Booker T. Washington's model involved not only a solid education in academics and Qur'anic/Biblical principles (integrity, hard work and patient perseverance) but he also felt that each member of the race should be schooled in industry and the value of Sacred Work/Labor. As opposed to the work they were used to doing as a slave, Sacred Work was the necessary work put forward that not only made an individual indispensable to his community, but it built character, confidence, assurance, dignity and gave the valuable gift of the concept of "a job well done." Each individual was to master a trade (or two or three) that was vital to a community's growth and do that trade to the utmost best of his/her ability so that not only would the community be successful and grow but the neighboring communities would also find that community indispensable. This would promote both a brotherly camaraderie between communities as well as help the economy by increasing the competition in free trade. Booker T's model would enable the average man to be a vital asset to his community which would become structurally solid and a vital asset to the nation's other communities. It is designed to build up the entire black community as a whole while allowing for exceptional individuals (like Booker T. Washington) to excel. This was indeed the American Dream model, that through hard work, determination, persistence and education you can achieve success.

Booker T felt that because the black and white races went through slavery together, they needed to be healed together. Starting off with nothing, the former slaves needed help in order to get a foot hold onto their future. His model pulls the races together for their mutual benefit; as the black race builds itself up the white race will benefit in the proper symbiotic relationship between two businesses. Yes, Booker T. rightly saw the growing community of former slaves as a developing business and he recognized that no business achieves its ultimate success without the help of other businesses, in this case the southern and northern whites. Just like FedEx and Kinko's or Exxon and Ford work together and thus enhance each other, Booker T. knew that in order to really be successful both races needed to work together (Didn't Up from Slavery function as a business plan for investors, after all?). Of course for the grand scheme of things, for the sake of his race's success why would Booker T. (or any other black person) alienate whites by continuously putting in their faces the evils of slavery and colonialism? In other words, why would a struggling start-up business alienate the banking industry and other investors by pointing out their wrong doings? They would be cutting their own throats. Obviously, if ever there was a time to forgive and forget Reconstruction was that time. And once the ultimate success had been achieved both races would do whatever they needed to ensure the wellbeing of the partner. If some racist bigots burned a cross on Kinko's lawn and threatened to lynch the manager, don't you think FedEx would also be insulted and demand the practice stop?

2.) W. E. B. Dubois was actually the spokesman for the blacks who felt that they shouldn't have to work hard anymore, now they should be free to live the way they watched the whites live for two centuries. In the Dubois model, the individual was encouraged to achieve the highest education he was able to. This would guarantee that the "Talented Tenth" (the small percentage of highly gifted individuals among every people) would attain the mega-success that was the American Dream. Dubois felt that it's the Talented Tenth among every race that furthers the goals of the community as a whole, and that the masses would benefit from a Reaganomics-like trickle down effect. This model, encouraging a work-o-phobic attitude and a individual's pursuit of success did nothing to build the black community but gave the hope that whites would accept the blacks into their communities "because we are free like you and we demand to live equally with you because we say so" which actually was the attitude that formed the KKK in the first place. Unlike the model of his rival, Dubois did not establish a system that would remove the slave mentality from the people so they would want to work hard in order to elevate themselves. Consequently, the concept of the "educated fool" was born, with the black academic full of dead languages and abstract principles with absolutely no practical way of using his education to enhance the quality of his character, dignity, morality, integrity or his community as a whole. His community is a raggedy shambles after only a few years of his living in it, because the slave mentality that the Dubois model perpetuates won't permit him even to take pride in slapping on a new coat of paint, mowing the lawn or cleaning up the trash and beer bottles littered in front of his house. Although the Talented Tenth's accomplishments have moved the race forward in very slow increments the average man, with the idea that work is bad and education only benefits a few, is free only to get in trouble or be used up for someone else's dream while he waits for the next minute advancement from the trickle down effect.

Obviously W. E. B. Dubois won the debate. Seeing the Dubois model as the easy route to success, they simply labeled Booker T. as an Uncle Tom and waited for their Talented Tenth to do their thing and never gave another thought about the matter. How they felt about Booker T. was summed up by how actor Moses Gunn played him in the movie Ragtime. Does it feel better knowing that at the end of his life, Dubois admitted that Booker T. was right?

No. The damage has now been done. People are fond of saying, "But we've come so far!" But have we? We would've come much farther much sooner if we had embraced Booker T's vision instead of Dubois' work-o-phobic, trickle down vision. They make that statement by pointing to the kind, modern white people that live among us today. But there have always been kind-hearted white people who've honestly wished us success! Look where all the money that helped found Tuskegee and the Hampton Institute came from. Look at the reality of our progress. As a community, after over a century since the Emancipation Proclamation, we have the same mentality we had as newly freed slaves. Instead of a household sharing a single fork and wasting all of their money on an organ that we can't play, now we've replaced the organ with a Cadillac Escalade or a Coach bag or some rims. Our communities are chaotic and scattered with no concept of leaving a legacy for our children. We lack the business savvy to own our own community shops and stores so that corporate predators can take advantage and just take our money out of our communities.

Without Booker T's life training fundamentals we still are in need of therapy for the centuries of chattel slavery we've gone through and so are the descendants of our former masters. Just like we have made little progress past the legacy of slavery's inferiority complex so they are still suffering from the superiority complex slavery gave to them. For the whites, they don't see anything wrong with building up vast wealth off of the blood, sweat and tears of others and giving them as little compensation as they can get away with. They honestly don't see anything wrong with playing with the worker's minds to make them feel they are getting a good deal. Because of this, the old wealthy white families who've built their money through slave labor and their peers actually sought how they could continue to take advantage of black slave labor without breaking the new anti-slavery laws. I believe that Up from Slavery is an excellent model as to how the black race can pull itself together into an awesome community, but I also believe that the warped mind suffering under a superiority complex can "reverse engineer" the book and use it to prevent such a community from forming in the first place.


Destroy all existing examples of strong black communities


Pull out the wealthiest, most productive members of the community leaving the ignorant, defenseless poor


Allow drugs and alcohol to flow freely into the ranks of the poor so that their frustrations and stress will ignite into various crimes


Paint the picture in the popular media (both bluntly and subliminally) that these people are prone to criminal behavior anyway


With the public's approval, round them up and fill up the prisons with them. Now they are the property of the State, and can be legally contracted out as slave labor... continuing where we left off.

If Dubois' model had not have been adopted, we would have been the ultimate success story, a strong and vibrant community making a major contribution to our nation's prosperity and our own people's legacy. Of course it's not too late to fix it. All we have to do is stop calling Booker T. Washington an "accommodating Uncle Tom" and get to work.
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