The Legacy of Self-Made Men


  • Carl Pratt


American society has long been enamored by the idea of one pulling oneself up by the bootstraps—the sought-after rags to riches story. Since people first began colonizing North America, individuals have fought for the chance to make something of themselves, taking incredible odds at the mere possibility of fame, fortune, and power. For those like Benjamin Franklin, the chance to move from lower middle class to timeless political figure was made through calculated risk and happened consciously. For others, born into the lowest status a human being can, enslaved like Olaudah Equiano, operating on his own merit and luck became a survival mechanism. Both men left a legacy of hard work, determination, and beating impossible odds to create a life worth reading about—regardless of embellishment, their legacies have left them perceived as self-made men. The perceptions of their lives are more important now than the actual lives they lived, since their autobiographies are what has a continuing impact today. Even if the Equiano and Franklin they wrote themselves to be are fabricated, their lasting impact as self-made are real, and the lessons they impose are valid.