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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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3. Utopian Promise   

9. Social

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Activities: Author Activities

Booker T. Washington - Teaching Tips

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  • In Up from Slavery, Washington reprints his Atlanta Exposition address, following it with excerpts from newspaper reviews praising the speech and a congratulatory letter from President Grover Cleveland. Ask students why they think Washington included all this supplementary material in his autobiography. What effect do the letters and newspaper reviews have on the reader's understanding of the speech? Ask students to imagine that they listened to the speech at the Atlanta Exposition and then have them write newspaper reviews or letters to Washington in which they articulate their responses to his philosophy.

  • The opening of Up from Slavery consciously engages with autobiographical conventions. Ask students to pay attention to the way Washington opens the story of his life. What is the effect of Washington's inability to say where and when he was born, or to give any details about his ancestry? How are we meant to understand the line "I suspect I must have been born somewhere and at sometime"? Is this humorous? Tragic? Both?

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