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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Reading Up From Slavery

Right now I'm reading Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington, whom I have written a little piece about him last week. I don't know how long this will take but since I'm not a big reader, I rarely rip through fast and the only book I've been able to finish reading in a matter of days was Scam by Jesse Lee Peterson (at some point I may discuss a few points from that book).

The introduction to this book was written by Ishmael Reed. There are few things that ring true in what he rights in his introduction which shows a basis in history. It also shows the cycle of black activism. BTW, this book was written by Booker T. Washington and was published in 1901. This book was printed by Signet Classic in 2000.

The introduction emphasized the rivalry of WEB DuBois and Mr. Washington. In fact DuBois was a professor at a black university, Atlanta University (now Clark-Atlanta University), for 13 years and apparently in his own autobiography he has never ventured too far from the campus. Yet he wanted a more forceful approach to race relations in America.

Washington wrote this about DuBois in 1911:
Dr. DuBois pursues the policy of stirring up strife between white people and black people. This would not be so bad, if after stirring up strife between white and black people in the South, he would live in the South and be brave enough to face conditions which his unwise course has helped to bring about; but instead of doing that he flees to the North and leaves the rank and file of colored people in the South no better off because of the unwise course which and and others like him have pursued.
Of course in talking about Condoleeza Rice and Clarence Thomas and a few others who just so happen to be black and conservative, the charges of being manipulated by whites were present in Washington's criticism of DuBois. Of course I'm sure the same could be said about Booker T. Washington. Either way before anyone should ever throw that around perhaps they need to look in a mirror.

Of course, that's not the only thing in the introduction. The civil rights activity of the 1960s are seen as the time which belonged to WEB DuBois but the 1990s are characterizes by Reed as Bookerite. According to Reed:
This turning away from politics to self sufficiency seems to be the trend among a growing African-American middle class, who've found that electing mayors and other officials to government hasn't changed the lives of the masses of African-Americans.
Reed names a few black celebrities in fact he even cites the hip-hop culture. He cites Sister Souljah and Spike Lee. He even concludes that the Spike Lee joint Jungle Fever was,
...a tract that warns against race mixing, was the cinematic version of Washington's "separate in all things purely social.
Even the anti-capitalist black economist Juliane Malveaux saw black activism going into the form of economic activism and economic boycotts. In this vein Jesse Jackson was challenging Wall Street and he accompanied Bill Clinton to economically depressed areas and urged corporate investment in those areas.

Finally DuBois refers to Washington's school of thought as the Tuskegee Machine. Today it has been replaced by the Harvard machine. Reed refers to the Harvard Machine as the new talented tenth (which refers to the most educated amongst black America). They are cutting deals with Corporate America. Their style may be DuBoisian but according to Reed,
...their leader Henry Louis Gates, Jr., described himself as an "intellectual entrepreneur" during an interview with Black Issues magazine.
So I guess to say looking at this introduction what we see is a state of Black America as it was during the turn of the century as it was heading into the 21st century. Now black leadership is still decidedly leftist, they made some concessions to the real world. I will continue to read this book, I don't know when I'll finish but I'm really hoping is good.

As of now I'm in the first chapter.

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