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The Making of African American Identity: Volume II, 1865-1917
Topic: FreedomTopic: IdentityTopic: InstitutionsTopic: PoliticsTopic: Forward
Topic: Institutions
Toolbox Overview: The Making of African American Identity: Volume II, 1865-1917
Resource Menu: Institutions
Text 1. Power
Text 2. Associations (I)
Text 3. Associations (II)
Text 4. Education
Text 5. Leadership
» Reading Guide
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Text 6. Religion
Text 7. Business
Text 8. Family
RESOURCE MENU » Reading Guide Link

Reading Guide
5.  Leadership
- W. E. B. Du Bois, "The Talented Tenth," essay in The Negro Problem, 1903, excerpts
    W. E. B. DuBois

Du Bois included Crummell in the Talented Tenth, that natural aristocracy of exceptional men—and for the most part he meant only men—who would save the Negro race. Crummell urged African Americans to overcome their "lack of co-operative spirit," join together for specific purposes, and thereby achieve power. Du Bois certainly did not oppose that admonition, but he argued that without the leadership of the Talented Tenth, joining together might produce only "a headless misguided rabble." To assume their rightful positions of leadership, he maintained, the Talented Tenth required a college education, and by that he meant a liberal arts education, not industrial training of the sort Washington promoted. The "Negro people," he contended, needed "social leadership more than most groups," for they had "no traditions to fall back upon, no long established customs, no strong family ties, no well defined social classes." Thus they were in dire need of what colleges and universities, institutions that transmitted "knowledge and culture from generation to generation," had to offer. "Negro colleges" were institutions of "natural selection" that allowed "the talented few" to rise above the mass. 5 pages.


Discussion questions
  1. Who was the audience for this essay?
  2. According to Du Bois, what is the state of the black community in 1903?
  3. How does Du Bois define power?
  4. What, for him, are the roots of power?
  5. What, for him, are the roots of character?
  6. For Du Bois, what is the relationship between power and character?
  7. How, in his view, does the individual relate to the group?
  8. What does Du Bois want for those not in the Talented Tenth?
  9. Both Du Bois and Washington make a case for the training of black leaders. How do their notions of leadership differ? What alternative futures for African Americans do their competing visions suggest?

» Link


Topic Framing Questions
  •  What roles did institutions play in African American life at this time?
  •  In what ways did institutions shape and reflect African American identity?




Toolbox: The Making of African American Identity: Volume II, 1865-1917
Freedom | Identity | Institutions | Politics | Forward


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