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Voice of the Reader: Lessons
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Voice of the Reader: Lessons

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To the Editor:

All of the news dealing with Juneteenth and the BLM protests has caused me to think about the aftermath of the Civil War and the great progress Blacks have made and their contribution to the betterment of all Americans.

Booker T. Washington was born a slave in 1856 and became a nationally recognized educator. He entered Hampton Institute in 1872. He completed the course of instruction with honors and became the first president of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama for 30 years. Hampton Institute, in Virginia, was organized by Civil War General Samuel Armstrong in 1868. This White officer volunteered as commander of the 8th U.S. Colored Regiment in 1863.

George Washington Carver was born a slave in Missouri in 1860. He had an interest in plant life and applied at several colleges and became the first black student at Iowa State Agricultural College. His thesis was titled, “Plants as modified by Man.” Booker T. Washington invited Carver to teach at Tuskegee in 1896. His research into the uses of peanuts (145 products) saved farmers in Southern states after WWI as the infestation of boll weevils destroyed the profitable cotton crop and poison the soil. Peanuts replaced cotton as a cash crop.

Educator Diane Revitch reflected on the failure of our educational system and suggested a quote given by [Black leader] W.E.B. Dubois in the 1930s is still relevant as a "National Mission Statement," i.e., “The school has again but one way and that is first and last to teach them to read, write and [do math]. And if the school fails to do that and tries beyond that to do something for which a school is not adapted, it not only fails in its own function but fails in all other attempted functions because no school as such can organize industry or settle the matter of wage and income, can found homes or furnish parents, can establish justice or make a civilized world.”

James R. Gillespie




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