Black History Month Collage

In my last blog post on January 1st of this year, I pointed out that the foremost problem facing our Criminal Justice System, mirroring American society as a whole, is the issue of race.

In that post I opined that because this serious problem had its origins centuries before our country was colonized and then transformed into the United States, that for those who seek fully to understand the long, tragic history of racism, I highly recommended reading From Slavery to Freedom, A History of African Americans by the eminent historian John Hope Franklin, and his distinguished co-author, Alfred Moss Jr.

In honor of Black History Month, and as a highly worthwhile follow-up to the aforestated classic work, I would like to further recommend reading Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, and the Struggle for Racial Uplift by Jacqueline M. Moore.

When the Civil War ended in April, 1865, approximately four million former slaves found themselves free, and suddenly responsible for their well being without benefit of education or for the most part the skills necessary to earn a living, let alone take their proper place in society. Over the next sixty to seventy years, a heroic struggle ensued to uplift African Americans to a position from which they could begin to fully integrate into

American Society, and during this time the two most prominent leaders of this cause were Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois.

In her book, Ms. Moore provides the reader with background information on both of these giants, then traces their activities leading to the founding of the Tuskegee Institute by Booker T. Washington in 1881, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1910. In a highly readable style, the author brings both the era and the lives of these two great leaders vividly alive, and in just 176 pages fully educates the readers on an uplift that under the conditions is nothing short of miraculous, and, of course, the contributions of these truly remarkable men toward that end.

Perhaps the most fascinating angle explored by Ms. Moore, is the philosophical differences between Washington and DuBois, because they present the background necessary to have a greater appreciation of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, as well as offering a platform on which to evaluate the differences in philosophy between today’s leaders of the New Civil Rights leaders.

In short summary, Washington believed that industrial education should come first so that southern blacks could gain basic schooling and useful skills with which to make something of themselves. DuBois, on the other hand, argued that without higher education for blacks, there would be no black teachers for the industrial schools and therefore no chance for blacks to improve.

Washington’s approach, which advocated racial segregation socially and politically, was deferential to whites and thus widely accepted. If one keeps in mind that Washington was a slave for the first 9 years of his life, came of age during the turbulent times of Reconstruction, and was seeking to help a huge population of his fellow blacks who had little education and/or skills, his approach made considerable common sense.

DuBois, who was born free, was 12 years younger than Washington and the beneficiary of economic, educational, and social benefits totally foreign to Washington and the great majority of blacks, held the vision that blacks would rise with the help of educated leaders (the top 10% of the black population), who would use their training and skills to help others and to fight for rights for the race.

As the author demonstrates, both philosophies were necessary, and within a relatively short time period, not mutually exclusive, but rather complementary. And the power struggle between these two giants, each desiring to be the number one spokesman for his race, demonstrates the need to sublimate egos to the best achieve progress.

The story of this clash, offers a valuable lesson to current leaders of the New Civil Rights Movement, where major differences lie between the views of Ta-Nehisi Coates, Black Lives Matter, and the NAACP, all of whom seek to eradicate the cancer of racism from our society, and create through our political, economic, social, and cultural institutions a just society for all members.