Leadership role of the Talented Tenth among Afro-Americans, 1895-1919
Spiers, Fiona E.
This thesis endeavours to examine W.E.B. DuBois' concept of a Talented Tenth as the black leadership elite of the period 1895-1919. It discusses the development, evolution and limitations of this idea, and attempts to compare the theory with the reality. It investigates the ideology of leadership within the black community, and suggests reasons for the motivation and goal selection of black leaders. Chapter 2 examines the social structure of the Talented Tenth, assessing its dimensions and socio-economic character¬ istics. Chapter 3 centres on the problems of inter-group communication, and describes both the agencies and the difficulties of this leadership function. It looks principally at the media of language, oratory, pub¬ lications and the press, and follows the adaptation of techniques to fit varying circumstances. The next chapter studies the intra-racial organisations which were dominated by the Talented Tenth, describing their aims and objects, com¬ position and structure, and resilience and durability. Chapter 5 surveys the debate within the Talented Tenth as to the most efficacious methods of attaining the desired ends, or solving the race problem. It contrasts agitation with gradualist tactics, and reviews the struggle with Booker T. Washington and the other factions aspiring to leadership, namely the politicians, the Church, the separatists, the demagogues, especially Marcus Garvey, and the socialists. Chapter 6 focuses on the special problems and the distinctive role of the black female intellectual, and her attempts to overcome the double handicap of racial and sexual prejudice. Chapter 7 analyses the participation of the Talented Tenth in interracial movements and the personal relationships that developed or failed to develop, with white sympathisers. It also examines the effect of white help, and the differing attitudes of the liberals and the philanthropists. The following two chapters discuss the reaction of the Talented Tenth to the issues of the "Negro Problem" in the American context, and then the attitudes of the Talented Tenth to the wider issues of American life or international situations. The final chapter attempts to collate the preceding evidence by assessing the role of the Talented Tenth as theorisers of the Afro- American experience. It claims that their role was of necessity practical rather than philosophical, and deals with their dilemma of portraying a favorable racial image to a dual audience. It looks at black writing in the white press and at black literature, viewing this period as the prelude to the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920's. In relating the development of racial ideologies, scientific and sociological arguments, and the growth of black history, it surveys the growth of race pricje and self-respect, the upsurge of social work and the concept of "social uplift". Finally, the chapter estimates the cohesion and co-operation of the group, and its outlook on its intraracial and inter-racial predicament.