It Is Not Possible for One Man To Hold Another Man Down in the Ditch Without Staying Down There With Him

Booker T. Washington? Henry H. Proctor? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous educator and orator Booker T. Washington believed that the disadvantaged in society should be uplifted because a thoughtful program of amelioration would help everyone. During speeches Washington used the metaphor of two individuals fighting in a ditch. If one person wanted to hold the other down then both would be required to stay in the ditch. Booker’s audience ruefully recognized that both individuals would benefit from simply leaving the ditch. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1909 Booker T. Washington published “The Story of the Negro: The Rise of the Race from Slavery” which included the following passage. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

. . . the uplifting of the Negro in the South means the uplifting of labour there; for the cause of the Negro is the cause of the man who is farthest down everywhere in the world. Educate him, give him character, and make him efficient as a labourer, and every other portion of the community will be lifted higher. Degrade the Negro, hold him in peonage, ignorance, or any other form of slavery and the great mass of the people in the community will be held down with him. It is not possible for one man to hold another man down in the ditch without staying down there with him.

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Notes:

  1. 1909, The Story of the Negro: The Rise of the Race from Slavery by Booker T. Washington, Volume 1, Chapter 6: The First Slaves, Quote Page 124, Doubleday, Page & Company, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) list