Sleep Fictions: A Digital Companion


In Booker T. Washington's 1902 Character Building,* which can considered an early self-help book, he describes how black laborers in the post-Antebellum, especially those in rural areas, sorely lack in industrial education--a means for learning "how to direct their efforts and their energy." In "Mars Jeems's Nightmare," John seemingly remains ignorant of this need in Tom, simply assuming instead that the young man is lazy and incompetent.  

"One of the ways in which the problem is serious is with respect to labour. In almost every city and town in the South a large proportion of the coloured people are shiftless so far as manual labour is concerned, although I think there is already improvement. The masses of our people are given to thrift and industry, and to unremitting toil, in their way. The hard thing about it, the discouraging thing, is that they do not know how to realize on the results of their toil; because they have no education and little idea of industrial development, they do not know how to make their work tell for what it ought to. As a general thing the people—those in the country especially—do not ask anybody to come and give them food, clothing and houses; all they ask is for some person, some honest, upright man or woman who is interested in their welfare, to come among them and show them how to direct their efforts and their energy, show them how best to realize on the results of their work, so that they can supply their own moral, religious and material needs and educate their children."


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