Arguments of Freedom

English L55 Essay

The first few chapters of Booker Washington’s autobiography Up from Slavery lay out an irrefutable argument against American slavery. The three points of Washington’s argument opposing slavery are: slavery destroys the work ethic of both the slaves and the owners, it encourages the slaves to steal, and it destroys the slave’s family structure. For Washington, destruction of the work ethic was the most evil aspect of slavery. He viewed work ethic as a universal cure for all ailments. He believed that the vast majority of short comings could be solved by hard efficient work. Thus, any system which destroyed the desire to work to better one’s self, was a bad system.

Washington based his theories on the belief that slavery corrupted work ethic. His first hypothesis was that the white owners of the plantation he lived on, exhibited no financial skills. Which wasn’t necessarily true because the whites had to of have possessed some budgeting, and accounting skills. And they obviously would have understood some financial concepts, no matter how basic. What they did lack however, was manual labor skills. Booker also observed that the slaves were taught to work lethargically, because they received no wages whether they worked exceedingly or not. Of course depending on the owner of that slave, there might be beatings if that slave don’t work hard enough, so most often Washington found that slaves only worked well enough so as to avoid a beating.

Washington noticed that the slaves often stole food. He first noticed this while transporting sweet potatoes to a  cellar, and while he was loading the sweet potatoes into the cellar some of the potatoes would “ disappear.” He also noticed that the slaves habitually stole everyday necessities. Washington believed that the slavery system emboldened stealing because the slaves had very little and it was easy for them to purloin a few pieces of produce.

Washington’s final point against slavery, is that it destroyed the family structure, although the least stressed, this is perhaps the most imperative. The very nature of slavery meant that marriage and family were significantly exhausted, because any family member could be cleaved from the rest without forewarning. Although Washington spends a relatively short portion of his autobiography on slavery and the evil of the slave system, he undoubtedly constructs an imperative argument against slavery.

My beliefs on slavery are derived directly from God’s word. Slavery is evil, unless it carefully runs under Gods law. If you were a slave, this generally meant that you owed someone money that you could not pay. So if you owed someone money you were still required to pay off that debt, and the easiest way to do so would be to work for that person. Being a slave offered sanctuary, it offered the person in debt not only to repay their debt, but it also offered protection in many different ways. Slavery in America before the Civil War was not running under God’s carefully laid law, and therefore was evil.


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