Comparative Analysis of Booker T. Washington and Nat Love

During the period of Reconstruction directly following the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, there existed an aura of optimism and wishful thinking about the future of race relations in the United States. Many white people felt that the freed slaves and white America working together as freed men would only help the United States prosper as a country. In turn, many of these well wishers aided the cause of African Americans to excel as members of society. Many blacks also felt optimistic about the future for African Americans now that they had been released from bondage. Two such African Americans were Booker T. Washington and Nat Love. Both of these men are similar for many reasons. Like many others at the time, they attempted to promote white and black race relations during the period of Reconstruction. Both men also share a similar upbringing as children and many of the same feelings of being freed from slavery. Both Washington and Love try to use their narratives, Up From Slavery and The Adventures of Nat Love, as an attempt to convince people of improving race relations in the country during the time period following Reconstruction. Although, these two individuals are similar, they also have some differences in the way that they attempted to improve race relations in the United States. Booker T. had a broad political power base, the Tuskegee Machine, that he used to assert himself as powerful man among black and whites in the United States. Booker T. often used this power base to give blacks jobs and to place black people into positions of power where they could in turn help other blacks. Booker T. accomplished this mainly by engaging in the politics of accommodation. Washington used money from his white benefactors to conduct the Tuskegge Machine. The fact that Booker T. was able to help so many blacks become successful with the aid of white peoples money served as an example of improving race relations. Nat Love, on the other hand, attempted to promote race relations mainly by using his achievements as testament to the fact of improving race relations. In his narrative, The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Nat Love gives us the impression that black men and white men can get along in this country regardless history. He does this feat by describing his life as a cowboy. Not once in the narrative does Nat Love run into a problem because of his black skin. Instead, he is embraced and revered by white men as a skillful and respected cowboy. As Nat Love goes from a slave to a reknown cowboy. He attempts to use his accomplishments in the "wild west" as a testament to the fact that blacks can achieve anything that they want to in America, as long as they are given the chance and as long as whites welcome them as they did him. Unlike Booker T., Nat Love does talk about the cruelty of white slavers towards blacks in bondage. Booker T., on the other hand, does not make an issue of the cruelty of slavery but tells of how his master was a kind man. Booker T. and Nat Love also have different educational backgrounds. After being freed from slavery Nat Love did not receive any formal education as opposed to Booker T. who became an accomplished scholar.

Nat Love was born in Tennessee in June, 1854 as slave. He was fortunate enough to know his mother and father. Nat's family, numbering five in total, lived in a shanty wood cabin on their master's plantation. In his narrative as a young slave boy, Nat recalls the conditions of slavery and how he was treated. "My earliest recollections are of pushing a chair in front of me and toddling from one to the other of my master's family to get a mouthful to eat like a pet dog.." (1). As a narrator Nat is also willing to give us some insight into the cruelty that some masters inflicted on slaves.

We had as task masters. In many instances, perfect devils in human form, men who delighted in torturing the black human beings, whom chance and the accident of birth had placed