The African Americans

Search for Truth and Knowledge

By Dr. Leonard Jeffries, Jr.


Part Twenty-Eight: Accommodation Approach to the cyclical Pattern of African American Response

African American Leaders and the First Reconstruction Period

One of those interesting coincidences of American history occurred in 1895. In that year Frederick Douglass, a crusading abolitionist against slavery and great leader of Africa Americans died and Booker T. Washington rose to national prominence. With his famous "compromise" speech at the Atlanta Deposition, Washington stated that "in all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers yet one as the hand in all things essential to human progress." With the death of Douglass, the way was clear for Washington to become an undisputed national leader of African Americans from his base at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

The same year, however, also marked the rise of W.E.B. DuBois as a leader in the next century. In 1895 he received the first Ph.D. degree ever awarded to an African American by Harvard University, one of the most prestigious American institutions of higher education. It was not long before he challenged the national leadership of Booker T. Washington and became the most prominent leader of his time. DuBois was one of the organizers of the Niagara Movement in 1905. From this protest movement of more militant African Americans, DuBois helped to found and organized the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

All three of these great men became outstanding leaders and symbolized the struggle for freedom of African Americans. Each leader had his own peculiar style and Accommodation Approach to the Cyclical Pattern of African American struggle, but each had an undying sense of mission to uplift the race. All of them represent the accommodation approach to the Cyclical Pattern of African American response to the American experienced using petition and protest as their method of fighting oppression, discrimination and racism in American society.

 

Booker T. Washington and the Tuskegee Institute Model

With other avenues blocked, education became a special concern of African Americans after 1900 just as it had been right after the Civil War. Some leaders, such as Booker T. Washington argued that the rural masses in the South were primarily in need of industrial education and practical skills similar to his training at Hampton Institute in Virginia. He founded his own version of the industrial school model in Alabama in 1881 and it became the famous Tuskegee Institute. Graduates from the Institute spread all over the South, utilizing the special scientific techniques and systematic training that had been instilled through the Booker T. Washington method. Some of the graduates started their own schools and institutes of industrial education. These individuals were inspired by Mr. Washington's efforts and, like Ms. Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, attempted to follow his example. She struggled many years to build a school in South Carolina and finally achieved her dream. Today her institution is called Voorhees College and services hundreds of students. During this same period of time another outstanding educator, Mary McLeod Bethune followed the mode. She became a symbol of the struggle for education and the ability of African Americans to build institutions with little or no resources. Her school was initially called the Dayton Normal and Industrial School for Girls. It began as an elementary school founded in 1904. This endeavor was nurtured by Mrs. Bethune and eventually it became Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Florida, which has serviced thousands of students in the south. Mrs. Bethune became a legend with a mission and a vision.

Other African American leaders believed that while industrial education for the masses served a practical purpose, it was too limited and restricted. They favored a more well-rounded classical education that was designed to prepare students to challenge society and compete as political and social equals. Dr. W.E.B. DuBois favored this educational approach which reflected his own elite background and schooling at Fisk University, University of Berlin and Harvard University. He believed a "talented tenth" was needed to lead the race. Educators, such as John Hope, who became President of Morehouse College in Atlanta, supported DuBois.


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