Up From Slavery

Why did Washington always reflect from going into politics?

Chapter 6-8

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At the close of Washington's time in Washington, D.C., he received an invitation from a committee of whites in Charleston to advocate on behalf of the city to become the new capital of West Virginia. He accepted and spent three months speaking around the state, successfully influencing their choice of capital. He began to form a reputation as a speaker and was encouraged to enter politics. Feeling that he could do more in education, however, he refused, noting that political preferment would be a "selfish kind of success" (35). He felt that it would be more beneficial for him to take steps to pave the way for black people to succeed in their professional goals.

Washington opens the chapter by reiterating his decision to stay out of politics, noting that doing otherwise would be a "selfish kind of success - individual success at the cost of failing to do my duty in assisting in laying a foundation for the masses" (35). As noted in the analysis to chapter 5, his statement is quite ironic, given the immense amount of political power he eventually wields. It also implies that the way to help his race is through education rather than politics, supporting his view that the path to improved race relations is for blacks to become economically self-sufficient rather than agitating for civil rights.