African American Political Thought, 1890-1930: Washington, Du Bois, Garvey, and Randolph

African American Political Thought, 1890-1930: Washington, Du Bois, Garvey, and Randolph

African American Political Thought, 1890-1930: Washington, Du Bois, Garvey, and Randolph

African American Political Thought, 1890-1930: Washington, Du Bois, Garvey, and Randolph

Synopsis

"This collection is a fitting reminder that black leadership in America has a rich and complex history that defies any monolithic or facile generalizations". -- Choice

Excerpt

This volume represents an effort to create a deeper understanding of the issue of race and the impact of race on the political thought of African Americans in the early twentieth century. It approaches the subject through the writings of four major figures in African American history—Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, and A. Philip Randolph. Each of these figures grappled with the complex issue of race and worked to define the most effective way for African Americans to respond to the racial situation that confronted them in the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century. Each also approached the issue of race from a slightly different perspective and offered a range of strategies for confronting race and racial prejudice. Also, as the selections in this volume will underscore, not only did African Americans disagree (sometimes rather sharply) on the appropriate strategies and tactics for confronting racism in the United States, but each of the four men examined here modified his approach as circumstances changed and as his own interpretation of race and political power evolved.

Each of the four men encompassed in this collection represented a different approach to race in the United States in the early twentieth century. In each case, however, the complexity and evolving nature of their political thought undermine the generalizations usually made about their racial views. The result is that the lines dividing the racial thought of the four are not nearly as clear as many suppose.

Booker T. Washington is generally understood as an advocate of self-help and industrial education who avoided directly confronting the segregation and disfranchisement issues, while working quietly behind the scenes to combat the deteriorating racial situation at the turn of the century. Washington might be more accurately portrayed, however, as a pragmatic manipulator of political power who had a well-developed sense of the possibilities of the political and racial situation in the South, and used the power that he had to effect change in the context within which he operated. From this point of view, Washington's most serious miscalculations were his misunderstanding of how deeply entrenched racism was in America, and his belief that the future of African Americans was in the rural South. W. E. B. Du Bois is generally defined as an alternative to Washington, who rejected the Tuskegeean's moderate response to segregation and disfranchisement as defeatist, and Washington's commitment to industrial education as failing to prepare African Americans for either the political or the economic realities that they would face in the twentieth century. In reality, Du . . .

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