Black Leadership

Black Leadership

Black Leadership

Black Leadership

Synopsis

At the heart of this major statement on black political, intellectual, and religious leaders of 20th-century America are critical portraits of four leaders whose legacies speak to the challenges of race, class, and power: Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, Harold Washington, and Louis Farrakhan.

Excerpt

Separated by almost exactly one century, two significant public events captured the essential problematic of black leadership in white America. The first was Booker T. Washington's Atlanta Compromise address of September 1895, which endorsed the “separate but equal” doctrine, spelling the end of the brief experiment in biracial democracy throughout the South. The second was Louis Farrakhan's Million Man March of October 1995, which called upon African American men to “atone” and to assume greater leadership within their communities. To most historians and political scientists, these two prominent figures in twentieth-century black America appear to represent two fundamentally different visions about the politics of race. At the time of Washington's address, he was widely praised for his conciliatory remarks and accommodation to racial segregation. As the founder of the Tuskegee Institute, one of the nation's largest agricultural and vocational training schools for Negroes, Washington symbolically reassured white America that blacks would not challenge its institutions. In contrast, in 1995 most white observers were perplexed and unsure of how to respond to the mass spectacle of a million black men who had been summoned to Washington, D.C., by the head of the Nation of Islam. For many, Farrakhan remained a racial demagogue, an advocate of hate.

Superficially, Washington and Farrakhan seem at opposite ends of the political spectrum. But beneath their rhetoric, similar basic principles and . . .

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