English 9, Lesson 55 – What Were Washington’s Arguments Against the Slave System?

This week I started reading Up From Slaver by Booker T. Washington.  In the first few chapters of the book Washington talks about his opinions of slavery, mainly his oppositions.  In this essay I am going to talk about Washington’s main three arguments against slavery.

Work Ethic

Washington noticed how the slavery system may seem like it is only benefitting the whites, but in reality it was hurting them as well as the blacks.  When the slaves were freed, the whites did not know how to do manual labour for themselves as labour was viewed as jobs for the ‘lower rank’, the slaves.  They were so used to having people do it for them that they could not run their own farm without the help of their former slaves.  On the other hand, the slaves may know how to work, but they could not to read, write, or do mathematics as they were never taught.  Both parties lacked quality skills that they needed to survive, which is why many slaves started agreements with their former masters so that they could survive. 

Washington also noticed how all slaves worked hard, but for different reasons.  For those who had kind masters, they worked hard to please them.  But those who had cruel masters, they worked hard so they would not get a beating.  He found it wrong that the people’s work ethic was tainted by fear of punishment.


As a young child, Washington would see slaves stealing things from their masters.  As he grew older he realized that the system would make it somewhat acceptable to steal, in fact, it was common.  Washington frowned upon stealing, but at that time it was the only way the slaves could survive since they were not given much to survive on.  He felt as if the system was prompting bad habits, such as stealing.

Family Structure

Washington’s final argument was that the system ripped apart the family structure.  In those days, as you probably know, slaves were sold from owner to owner.  Their owners rarely cared about the fact that they may be taking a mother or father away from their family or taking a child from their parents.  This happened to Washington himself.  He never met his biological father, never even knew his name.  He was raised by his mother and older siblings.  He did not have a father figure in his life until after he was freed. 

Unfortunately, this was common for the blacks back then.  Washington, like my family and I, believe that every child should grow up with both of their parents around.   


As you can see, Washington had a pretty good argument against slavery.  He was a man with a good conscious and morals.  He stressed hard work and good work ethic to the students he taught in his early adulthood.  Like he said in Chapter Four “I have had no patience with any school for my race in the South which did not teach its students the dignity of labour.”

Author: sophiaelahirpc

Part-time 9th Grade student in the Ron Paul Curriculum. Full-time teen writer living in Singapore.

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