Essay by CollegGUYUniversity, Bachelor's November 2003

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Of my ancestry I know almost nothing. In the slave quarters, and even later, I heard

whispered conversations among the colored 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.

-Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery

One would like to think that it is impossible to read the above paragraph without being ashamed of White America. Booker T. Washington was a man of such expansive good will and generous spirit, that he could write, on the one hand, about his mother being purchased like a barnyard animal and, on the other hand, could forgive the...