Saviors or Sellouts: The Promise and Peril of Black Conservatism, from Booker T. Washington to Condoleezza Rice

By Christopher Alan Bracey | Go to book overview

FOUR
The Agonistic Voice of
Midcentury Black Conservatism

The Strange Career of George Samuel Schuyler

In The Souls of Black Folk (1903), DuBois described the condition of the Negro in American life in terms of double consciousness: “One ever feels his twoness—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” DuBois, of course, was speaking of the inner struggle of blacks to join mainstream American life without sacrificing racial identity. Yet DuBois's grand metaphor also pointed to the larger struggle within American society to remedy the dissonance created by its commitment to fundamental ideals of freedom and equality and prevailing practices of devastating modes of racial oppression. In this sense, the reconciliation of blackness and Americanness might be understood as both a personal quest to achieve an inner racial peace for blacks and an American quest to nurture and sustain a racially inclusive and empowering democracy.

As the foregoing chapters make clear, the dilemma of “twoness” eloquently described by DuBois was not an artifact of liberal politics but a feature that defined black American life, regardless of ideology. Black conservatives, from James Forten to Booker T. Washington to Mary McLeod Bethune to Marcus Garvey, deployed the principled insights of

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