Day 2: We turn our focus to a speech that Chesnutt delivered in 1882. The message of his oration, as the title presumes, focused on the nature of men who, despite their circumstances, surroundings, and pedigree, are able to rise above and, essentially, still make something out of nothing.
He paints a picture of savvy and resolute men, with images of notables like Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, and Frederick Douglass—men throughout history (and this was only up until 1882) who have, for all intents and purposes, started from the bottom (H/T to Drake)…and then arrived:
“But when we see a youth, born in poverty, cradled in obscurity;–when we see such a youth rise superior to his coarse surroundings, and vulgar associations, and, overcoming all obstacles, by sheer force of intellect and will attaining to a high rank in life; then we instinctively pause to admire, and rejoice in the power of the mind” (34).
“Self-Made Men” is a testament of the power of the mind to elevate the body (i.e., social station, socioeconomic status). You can read his speech in its entirety here or browse the edited collection in the Library.
Source: Chesnutt, Charles W. “Self-Made Men.” Charles W. Chesnutt: Essays and Speeches. Ed. Joseph R. McElrath. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999. 33-40. Print.