Leading the Race: The Transformation of the Black Elite in the Nation's Capital, 1880-1920

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Leading the Race: The Transformation of the Black Elite in the Nation's Capital, 1880-1920. By Jacqueline M. Moore. (Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, c. 1999. Pp. x, 257. $37.50, ISBN 0-8139-1903-7.)

During and immediately after Reconstruction, the black elite, notably in the North, advocated assimilation of black and white Americans in society. To some historians, these educated and professional blacks failed to assist other blacks in the struggle for equal rights and preferred to enjoy the benefits, however small, of their social and economic status. Jacqueline Moore's Leading the Race adds to recent monographs by Joe W. Trotter Jr. and Stephanie Shaw that examine how the black elite worked for racial uplift not only for themselves but for black people across the nation. Moore's study illustrates, moreover, the process through which middle- and upper-class black people renegotiated their ideology of rights from one that insisted on assimilation into American society to one that emphasized racial solidarity.

By using the many African American sources in Washington, D.C., Moore conveys a complex view of the highly educated and successful African Americans who longed to be mainstreamed into white society. Yet facing the increasing barriers to equal rights by the turn of the century and the acceptance by state and federal governments of legal segregation and violence, the black elite refocused their efforts on racial uplift for all African Americans. In so doing, these individuals grew closer to Washington, D.C.'s black community, recognized the improvements and leadership they could provide for their race, and endorsed racial solidarity by the 1920s. …


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