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The Making of African American Identity: Volume II, 1865-1917
Topic: FreedomTopic: IdentityTopic: InstitutionsTopic: PoliticsTopic: Forward
Topic: Politics
Toolbox Overview: The Making of African American Identity: Volume II, 1865-1917
Resource Menu: Politics
Text 1. Racial Politics
Text 2. The Race Problem
Text 3. Segregation
Text 4. The Vote
Text 5. Lynching
Text 6. Goals
» Reading Guide
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Text 7. Action

RESOURCE MENU » Reading Guide Link

Reading Guide
6.  Goals
- Booker T. Washington, "The Atlanta Exposition Address," 1895, Ch. 14 in Up from Slavery, 1901
- W. E. B. Du Bois, "Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others," Ch. 3 in Souls of Black Folk, 1903

   Booker T. Washington   W. E. B. Du Bois

These two readings often comprise the entirety of a class study of African American history from emancipation to the Harlem Renaissance. Our scholars urge us to be wary of this. While the readings are significant, of course, for the opposing positions of Washington and Du Bois on the goals of black progress, they do not tell the story alone.

Having said that, we encourage you to select these texts for your seminar and not bypass them if you have read them before. The Washington text is his famous "Atlanta compromise" speech delivered at the 1895 Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia. The Du Bois text is his rebuttal to Washington's plan for black progress—and his vision of the activism required in the new century. Read them again and reflect on the insights you gain from a second look, especially in the context of your other readings for the seminar. So how "accommodationist" is Washington? And how "militant" is Du Bois? What accounts for their diverse perspectives? 18 pages.

Note: Du Bois opens each chapter of Souls with a poetic verse and the score of a spiritual (a "sorrow song"). In chapter three, the spiritual is "A Great Camp-Meeting in the Promised Land," and the verses are from Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1812-1818).

Discussion questions
  1. How does each man define equality as a goal for African Americans? What political rights does each deem as reasonable goals for black citizens in this time?
  2. How does Washington argue that economic success must precede political rights? How does Du Bois argue the opposite?
  3. What factors does Washington consider vital in his prescription for black progress that Du Bois omits or minimizes? And vice versa? Where does the South fit in each man's perspective?
  4. For the purpose of discussion, select a phrase in Washington's address that would most disturb Du Bois, and vice versa. On this basis, describe the essence of their disagreement.
  5. How might each man's perspective have changed from 1895 to the early 1900s, after Plessy, disenfranchisement, increasing mob violence, the Spanish American War, and the assassination of President McKinley?
  6. How would you expect each man to put his policies into action?

» Link

Topic Framing Questions
  •  What forms of political action did African Americans initiate? For what goals?
  •  How was political action affected by the increase in discrimination and violence during the 1890s?
  •  How did black leaders frame their political objectives for their white audience?
  •  To what extent did black political action affect the lives of ordinary African Americans?

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

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