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On the Future of His People

  646 THE SATURDAY EVENING POST Volume 172, No. 30

On the Future of His People *

DOCTOR WASHINGTON may be considered, in relation to education, as the prophet of the practical. For instance, the volume before us indulges in no flights of fancy, no gilded speculations about the condition of the American negro generations hence; indeed, the author frankly dismisses the question as one that does not now much concern him. Though he is hopeful of his race, and believes in the ultimate triumph of the forces of progress which in the end make for justice, the future of the negro which he discusses is that of to-morrow, as growing out of the conditions of yesterday and to-day; and as he believes in getting the foundations of an argument, as well as of an education, properly laid, he gives to the present a large part of his attention.

This volume is chiefly devoted to Mr. Washington's theory of the industrial education of the negro, and is a logical forceful presentation of the views he has so long endeavored to propagate, and has carried out with such marked success at Tuskegee. The magnitude and seriousness of the problem confronting the South—for it is chiefly in its Southern aspects that Mr. Washington discusses the future of the negro—are clearly perceived by the author. Being a diplomatist as well as a philosopher, he does not dwell unduly upon race prejudice, which is the most obvious and to some minds the most serious feature of the negro problem. The point he emphasizes is that the low esteem in which the colored race is held is largely due to the negro's poverty, his ignorance of the immediate means to overcome it, and his lack of thrift and enterprise. Making due allowance for discouraging conditions, he sees in the negro a great amount of undeveloped energy, which, if wisely directed along the lines of most obvious need and of least resistance, will vastly simplify the problem of his elevation. In industrial education, carried on side by side with mental training, and perhaps given for a time the greater emphasis, Mr. Washington finds the entering wedge by which his people can work their way into the body politic in a higher sense than they have hitherto been able to do.

A very casual perusal of this volume will convince the thoughtful reader that there is much in it that will apply, with almost equal force, to the white people of the South as well as to the black, and, in some measure, as well to the North as to the South. The overcrowding of the learned professions; the "stepping-stone" system of never learning to do anything thoroughly, because you are always expecting to have something better to do very soon; the lack of scientific agricultural training; the need of trades' schools to replace the old and moribund apprenticeship system and offset the tyranny of the trades' unions—are not confined to the Afro-American people. If Mr. Washington, with his system of education, can get the masses of his race started in life on a broad industrial foundation, with ample room for the upward development of those who have ability and opportunity for yet higher things, he will do them a great service. If, in addition, his views, so clearly set forth in this well-written book, receive proper recognition as an important contribution to the general subject of popular education, Doctor Washington will have conferred a benefit upon the people of the entire country.

The book is in all respects worthy the attention of thoughtful minds, and is sure to be widely read.

*The Future of the American Negro. By Dr. Booker T. Washington. Small, Maynard & Co. Incorporated[back]