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Reaping the Whirlwind Essay

Fighting human rights is a long and complicated process and “Reaping the Whirlwind” by Robert J. Norwell is a classical work, in which the author traces the development of human rights movement in one of the cities of American South – Tuskegee, Alabama, specially concentrating on the rights of black-skinned community. The book gathers unique aspects of this region, as well as attempts to link them to national and global human rights development. Norwell is perhaps the best person to write such a book as he is a native of Alabama and holds a PhD degree on history.

Norwell takes the reader from 1880-s to 1960-s, telling the story of Tuskegee Institute and it’s principal Booker T. Washington (1856-1915). Tuskegee appeared to be an outstanding example of human rights development. The local Afro-American community appeared to be educated and professional enough to promote their interests, including the ones in education, to overcome the position of conservative white officials. Norwell pays attention to both successes and disappointments of human rights movement in Tuskegee.

The key idea of the book, is that in Tuskegee the black population managed to realize their own idea of harmony with the white Americans. In the later chapters Norwell concentrates on further development of the situation and describes how reality stepped away from accommodationalist views of Washington. Those ideas, which have been created in a small closed society were adapted by the rest and became essential for the whole nation. Human rights were won not only by legal and judicial means but also by persuasion, harsh disputes and even fighting opened violence.

The book demonstrates how declared rights of African Americans gradually became factual and true. The first edition of the book ended in 1960, however in later editions Norwell updated the last chapter and briefly told of the latest development of human rights on the South from 1960-s until now. Norwell supposes, that Washington’s care of Afro-American activists created a base for human rights to flourish after World War II, because he managed to prepare enough leaders for the movement.

Finally he concludes, that Washington should be more likely called a father of human rights movement than DuBois. In total the book is well written and quite easy to read. It is written for both those, who are interested in the subject and those, who require professional knowledge in the field of human rights development of the South. The book gives a picture of real struggles around human rights, which are often different from romantism of martin Luther.

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