Monday, August 27, 2012

Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, Sam Hose, Why No Body Wants to be the Talented Tenth

On this day August 27, 1963 in Accra Ghana, Dr.W.E.B. DuBois passed on, he had grown tired of the United States and lived out the rest of his days in Africa.

Cornel West, described as the heir of DuBois’s legacy, wrote  DuBois is the "brook of fire through which we all must pass in order to gain access to the intellectual and political weaponry needed to sustain the radical democratic tradition in our time”

Today the Black community as a whole still exists in a  white supremacist world wind of physical and economic violence, and dehumanization. But when DuBois walked this earth, legal protection didn't exist for Black people. Total segregation was the law and violating local customs often got Black folks lynched. And Black inferiority was considered a scientific fact.  

DuBois, because of his privilege as a Harvard trained sociologist, proclaimed himself a member of the “talented tenth” and changed America by teaching, giving speeches, publishing news papers like, The Crisis, authoring twenty-one books, including the "Souls of Black Folks"  "Black Reconstruction in America", and  (the first scientific sociological study in America), "The Philadelphia Negro", plays, poems, novels, and essays. He also founded "The Niagara Movement" that birthed The Civil Rights Movement.

 DuBois also had to supersede Booker T. Washington's Tuskegee Machine based out of Tuskegee University that he founded. Washington proffered a strategy of obsequious behavior toward whites and accepting segregating. He also only supported education in farming and trades. His beliefs were so popular that both liberal and conservative white leaders gave generously to his causes. And every President of that era visited the campus and sought his advice. Washington's influence made and broke break careers of Blacks according to their loyalty. This including getting DuBois fired from the Fisk University( another all Black institution) for supporting anti lynching legislation. 

I wonder what Dr. DuBois would say about the the Black on Black violence this summer, including the shootings of eight young Black men last Thursday on a street corner in a south side neighborhood called "Terror Town". 

I kept thinking  about how after two blurbs in both local papers, it's no longer news. Yet if a group of eight young white males were shot similarly, the country would pause to take notice.  

I'm reminded of DuBois's attempt to cover the trial of a Black farm laborer named Sam Hose who killed his much larger employer in self defense. While on the run for ten days, the major newspapers competed by making up increasingly lurid and violent details. They same Mr. Hose raped a white women and killed her baby. When Mr. Hose was captured, he immediately went to trial and was convicted in twenty minutes and sentence to death the next day. Railroad trains  were hired to transport hundreds of whites from larger towns like Georgia to attend the murder of Mr. Hose. On Sunday, April 23, 1899. Mr. Hose was brought to the town square before a crowd of over 2,000. There he was stripped, and his ears, fingers, and genitals were sliced off, his face skinned, and finally he was burned on a pyre. Children and other souvenir hunters fought over organs and bones.

DuBois arrived a day later asked a porter if the trial had begun. The porter told him that he missed the trial but that Mr. Hose's knuckles were on display in the window at the town grocery store if he wanted to see them.  

DuBois looked about the town and wondered how the large population of Black citizens 
could walk by that window and cross the town square where such a atrocity against on of their own had happened, yet they went on with their lives as if nothing happened.

I hope one day, some one asks the same thing about us. I hope things are better then for Black people. And I hope some kid says how could things get that bad in a city that has more Black elected officials than any other city and a Black President who was from that city. And while they're no knuckles in the window, they're are plenty of side walk memorials plastic flows, teddy bears, candles, balloons and half bottles of forty ounces and on 78th and Essex I hope the rain washed away the blood because it was still there as of Saturday night, or so I was told.

Funny, today the Black intelligentsia calls DuBois's idea of the Talented Tenth arrogant, so I stopped using it because such is the popular thinking. Although I always considered it truth. And how can you deny the source? I think why the term has gone out of favor is because to speak it creates a duty to actually dedicate your life to help other Black people in a genuine way of empowerment and I think too many of my people just don't want to do that.

We Miss You Doctor DuBois. 


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