tv Lectures in History CSPAN December 30, 2014 9:25am-10:46am EST
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. next, mers he university professor chester fontenot examines the life and legacy of booker t. washington. he talks about washington's early years at tuskegee university and looked at his ideological platform which encouraged african-americans to establish their own economic base while washington helped create many institutions for african-americans such as the national negro business league, he also had opposition to his ideas, both during his lifetime and since. fontenot also compared ideas and tactics of booker t. washington and mgartin luther king jr. >> i made a statement in class that many of you disagreed with
when i said that booker t. washington was the most important and the most influential african-american leader until the election of president barack obama. he is even more significant in some ways because booker t. washington was never elected to a public office. barack obama president barack obama, is elected president of the united states and he is not a black leader. he is a leader of the free world and also the leader, of course, of our country. so when we look at african-american leadership coming out of the 19th century, into the 20th century, even into the 21st century i maintain that booker t. washington has no peers. some of you disagree with that. so i make my case today that you can in fact agree or disagree with. we start of course with washington's birth. this is the original structure home, in which booker t.
washington was born. he talks about his humble beginnings beginnings. we said that washington is establishing his credit, his credibility, his kind of street cred, you might say as a black leader. because in the 19th century in order to establish your credentials as a race leader, you had to have been a -- what? a slave. right? okay. so at beginning of up from slavery, he establishes his street cent so to speak. that he was a slave. now we know he wasn't a slave for very long because slavery ended when he was 12 years old and we also know that because slavery ended so early in washington's life, that he may not have experienced the full import and the weight of slavery because it ended when he was 12 years old. we know that the full import of slavery usually did not rest upon slave children fully until
they turned -- until they reached puberty. so washington was a slave but -- and he tells us some things about slavery but he also tells us that he had no bad feelings no real -- he harbored no real malice toward those people who were his owners. in fact he even says that his owner was not a particularly bad owner. that seems to be oxymoronic, doesn't it? it seems to be problematic thinking of someone owning you, a slave master as not really a bad person. the whole idea of just owning a slave itself is terrible, would seem to many of us. but this is the actual cottage, the actual house in which booker t. washington was born. then we know that washington went on to distinguish himself -- skipping over a whole bunch of stuff here because of time -- but washington went on to distinguish himself in his
autobiography of enslaveslavery, washington tells us of his route to tuskegee institute. right? and he says that there are some things that happen to him and decisions he had to make that contributed to him going to tuskegee institute. what were some of those decisions and things that happened to him? >> he had to work to find money to pay there and he didn't have enough money so he learned the dignity of labor before he went to university. >> in terms of working, right, in order to achieve so that he could pay his way into tus kwee gee insurance tuskegee. for the particular example, he said there was a particular event that happened. what was that event? >> can't remember the name of
the woman but she helped him realize the value in labor. because he was like a servant in her house, cleaning making sure everything was in tip-top condition. that was his entrance example once he got to hampton the dignity and value of labor. >> mrs. ruffner. right? in fact, he values that experience so much with mrs. ruffner that he says she taught him not only the value and dignity of labor but she taught him many lessons that he uses throughout his life. and he cred ditsz her forits her for much of his success. right? so washington tells us that there is a value here of hard work. there is a value of morality. he values being able to pay your own way, so to speak. in other words, washington is writing this autobiography and undergirding it is washington's belief that the problems for people of african descent is
that they came out of slavery as a dependent group. remember we discussed this. right? and he is trying to find a way -- he's articulating a way to move african-americans from dependency to independence. and so washington says there are some things you need in order to move from dependency to independence. there's some resources you have to have. what are some of those three things that washington discusses from slavery? >> one of the less important things that washington focuses on aside from the material aspects of going through freedom, is discipline. that's why he's stress somethinging labor so much. >> discipline. what else? what else? yes. >> once the discipline had been found then people could work toward other things like
education and jobs and those other resources that would propel them into independence. that was extremely important. resources. what things did they need. >> they need skills necessary to be able to impact their community in positive ways. >> okay. needed skills. discipline. we discussed this. we talk about the problems that some people sometimes folks look at washington and get ahead of themselves and say well washington was advocating economic uplift. he was advocating that. washington was advocating industrial education. he was advocating that too, but as far as washington was concerned, undergirding all of this was the importance of discipline and a work ethic. discipline. values. et cetera. because if you give these resources to someone who doesn't have discipline and the correct values, you're wasting these resources because they won't
know what to do with them. right? and so washington is making an argument here that some people of african decentcoming ingcoming out of slavery have to develop, if they don't already have it, the discipline necessary in order to carry them forward. so washington uses his own life as an example of the kind of discipline that people of african decent really ought to have. he talks about his route to hampton institute where he even slept under the boardwalk to pay his way he worked at a truck, all that kind of stuff. didn't have any money on his journey. once getting to hampton, he cleans a room for the person who's there and he remembers the lessons taught by mrs. ruffner about how to clean. he says that was my entrance examination. so in terms of the building blocks of booker t. washington, we have first the sense of discipline, hard work, ethics
et cetera, the lessons that mrs. ruffner taught him. and then he meets a man, a colonel, at hampton institute. remember him? armstrong? what did armstrong teach him? >> taught him about the dignity of labor. >> the dignity of labor. right? now why was that important, to see labor in a dignified way? why was that important for people of african decent? >> because up until that point like during slavery, labor was seen as dehumanizing because slaves were like these physical bodies that were only fit for labor and there was no dimension to them so they learned through time that labor was something to be ashamed of and something to shy away from. booker t. washington to uplift the race had to show that there
is dignity in labor and you should be proud of working and achieving something for yourself. >> okay. right. dignity in labor. labor -- transform labor from toil, we might say, in the sense in which you are working but you are not reaping the outcomes rewards of labor. plus you have no investvested interest in labor because someone else is getting the reward. as a slave, you're not reaping the benefits. you are making someone else wealthy. washington says, "colonel armstrong taught me the dignity of labor." and he tries to emphasize labor as something that is dignified because washington is attempting to establish an economic base for people of african decent. in 1895 when he gives the atlantic's position address, that is also known as the atlanta compromise washington
is accused of being an accommodationist because he says that black people instead of going northward and leaving the south, they're leaving land they're leaving their heritage, they're leaving the possibilities for independence, economically, they're going in search of education. political rights. less social oppression. get away from the ku klux klan et cetera. and they're going in search of jobs. so washington says instead of going to the north in order to find these things, stay in the south. now background to this is that in the south african-americans own considerable pieces of land. coming out of slavery. first of all, there was a group of african-americans who were always free, had never been slaves. and many of them were
landowners. second, many slaves coming out of slavery, now they're free. many masters who had considerable sums of land gave some land to their former slaves. and so african-americans had land. and the third group were -- there were many african-americans who after coming out of slavery were able to purchase their own land later on. you have african-americans who have some land in the south. and land historically in america has been seen as the basis of wealth. washington's saying if we can make this land functional and work for us we can establish an economic base. and if we establish an economic base the political and social arenas of life will be easier to
achieve. political rights will follow. social rights will follow once we get an economic base. washington in fact here is looking at the example that immigrants already had performed. right? had already established. they come in and usually within a generation or so they'd establish their own economic foundation, their own economic bases, their communities, et cetera. washington is looking at immigrants and saying black people can do that too. right? of course, that's little bit short-sided as we criticize washington and say okay, he's looking at immigrants this way and saying black people can do the same thing. why these people came in here as immigrants, they didn't speak the language, they didn't know anything about american society et cetera, but within one generation they started pulling themselves up out of their lower
class status. why can't african-americans do it and we've been here a lot longer. plus african-americans, he said, have an advantage over the immigrants. they speak english. they're americans. they have the right here in order to make america function for them. so washington is saying, african-americans ought to do like the immigrants. now that's a bit short-sided because immigrants could claim and often did claim later on, that they were in fact white. they did not have the same kind of physical distinctions that people of african decent have. then secondly, immigrants were never slaves. they were never defined as property. so washington's analysis here just a little bit short-sided. but his point, nonetheless, is that african-american needed to establish an economic base. so once he became the head master at tuskegee institute,
many people say he found tuskegee institute. that's not true. he did not start tuskegee institute. he did take over once tuskegee institute had been founded. and then he built it from there. this is a picture of the site of tuskegee institute when it was first purchased when it was first bought. there were two buildings still on tuskegee campus. those two buildings have been restored and in fact built on to. but trying to maintain the original architecture et cetera, and folks say that it is being used as dormitories. so if you ever get to tuskegee institute, you can see these two buildings. but can you imagine starting off this way? now in his autobiography, "up from slavery," he tells us
something about life in alabama when he first went there and started working to build tuskegee institute. he tells us something about the people who are around tuskegee institute. in particular, demographics. how many people there were. educational level. how people were living. there was a bunch of farms et cetera. right? and washington tells us that the community surrounding tuskegee that he's looking somehow to pull students, and also support for the institution is in what condition? what condition is that community in? would you say. how would you describe it? >> well, they were well off but i guess the term would be ignorant just because i remember in the book he was saying some black families had enough money they could buy a clock but no
one in the house could read the clock. or they would have enough money to buy a piano, but no one in the house could play the piano. they didn't know how to use it. >> because these things signify you have "made it." you have a piano you have a clock. you have knives and forks. don't even know how to use them. right? and washington says somehow i have to get this community and this community of people are emblematic of the state of booker t. washington that a large group of african-americans were stuck in at that time. he said so how do i get these people from here to here. right? such that they can become more independent. and so we have original building of tuskegee institute.
porter hall was the first building erected on the tuskegee campus. that is a picture of porter hall after it was first erected. the significance of this of course is that booker t. washington is attempting to build an institution. he believes that if people of african decent are going to progress, they must do so through institutions. can't do so individually. they must do so through institutions. so he builds porter hall which is the first building erected on the campus. of course we know that booker t. washington emphasized what he called industrial education. industrial education. another way of putting it later on carter g. woodson in the 1920s will call it practical education. industrial education.
and that is the education that one needed in order to make the land profitable. washington's argument was what good was it for people of african decent to be able to quote shakespeare or edgar allen poe when they couldn't make the land productive. you have 50 acres of land, you have very little use for shakespeare or edgar allen poe. not that it is a bad thing to know it. it is just that ought not be your priority. your priority ought to be gaining skills necessary and the know-how the knowledge base, to make that land productive to establish economic independence. so here we have women who are learning how to till the fields. plant. and to reap a harvest from the
fields. we also know that washington also gave students ownership part ownership, in the development of tuskegee institute. he tells us in "up from slavery" that one of the ways that he developed a leadership model, and also kind of on ln-the-job training system for students at tuskegee institute is they participated in the building of their own institution. i thought that was very interesting, don't you? we don't do that here at mercer. we don't have students, would you help us erect the football stadium? here's a shovel. you know that kind of thing. it's probably a good idea that we didn't, because even if you would have, we probably wouldn't have had one that looked as good as we have here.
but washington in the latter part of the 19th century making an argument here that people of african decent need to participate in their own uplifting. his critique here goes back to the failures of reconstruction. washington believes that the problem -- the primary problem with reconstruction and the efforts of reconstruction, eother than not being funded effectively, was also that it created a system of dependency for people of african decent. and washington's argument is that if people of african decent are going to prosper and to become more upwardly mobile they must do so through economic independence. the way you get there
washington argues are the values that he has already displayed in his route to becoming president of tuskegee institute. herebuilding the foundation for a building at tuskegee institute. they're physically building it. he also tells us that at tuskegee institute becomes known for brick masonry, and that they develop in fact a kind of organization, you might say, a business itself for brick masons, training students to be brick masons, and also training them to run those businesses. he tells us that various businesses in america can't wait for tuskegee students to graduate before they already have jobs. and they're running stuff. so we have this economic model
because of washington's prolific use of these kinds of resources and turn out these sorts of students as well as his acumen plid politically, washington became known as the creator of what's called "the tuskegee machine." they referred to tuskegee institute as the tuskegee machine. so washington was doing this. here is a picture of washington at tuskegee institute speaking. he was a prolific speaker. one thing that many people don't realize about booker t. washington is he was actually a licensed baptist preacher. he had gone to seminary in washington, d.c. weyland sem seminary for 18 months. he said he believed he had been called to preach. but then when he started meeting other black ministers, he lost
interest in preaching because he did not respect them. he said that they were a group of folks who were just taking advantage of the they did not have the interest of the people, of the masses in their hearts. and in fact, they were simply in it for themselves. but washington gets out of the ministry, but he maintains the discourse of the black ministry, and so when washington spoke, apparent apparently it was an event. you listen to any recordings of booker t. washington speaking, it is riveting. the manner in which he spoke. you can see right here that crowds, thousands of people would come out to hear booker t. washington speak. he is speaking again here. laying the word down.
might have been myself, right? booker t. washington. not only with tuskegee institute did booker t. washington make a significant impact. we talked about washington and his impact, as well, with other what we call now hbcus, that because of washington's influence, he was able to open up opportunities for other hbcus to become in fact land grant colleges. to get not only land, but moneys from the state and also federal government. and because of booker t. washington, many hbcus became proficient and also very viable. although by 1900, tuskegee institute boasted an endowment of $1.5 million. that was a lot of money back then. that is a lot of money now, as far as i'm concerned.
that was a lot of money back then to have as an endowment, especially for a black university. also in 1900 booker t. washington starts the national negro business league. this is a picture of the executive committee of the national negro business league. this league this business league was started washington started this with the premise of moving again the african-american community from dependency to independence, through the establishment of black businesses that would be viable. it is important to understand that washington was working during an era where there is segregation. segregation meant that whatever people of african descent were going to do or have access to was going to happen within the black arena the sphere of influence where black people live. right here in macon, georgia, there were areas where people of
african descent lived. and if someone was upwardly mobile, a professional, a doctor, a lawyer, a dentist, or a teacher or whatever, they simply lived in an area within the african-american community. they couldn't go over to the side of town where the white people lived. so, stores, businesses, the economy within the black community had to be of that thriving. and it was, in fact, thriving. one of the reasons why the economy was thriving in the african-american community was because of the national negro business league that booker t. washington established. one thing that they would do would be to not only promote the development of black businesses, but also help black businesses along. if you wanted to start, say, a grocery store or a clothing store or any kind of business. farming equipment business, et
cetera. one could get aid and help from the national negro business league. so, booker t. washington put that together. as well as efforts after the publication of "up from slavery" in 1901 -- it won him acclaim, nationally and internationally such that booker t. washington became not only the most significant, the most powerful and well-known african-american leader in america, but also he became internationally famous. and internationally known. this was an era where there was no twitter. there was not cable. there was no facebook, no cell phones, none of that.
the word about someone's success, and celebrity status traveled primarily through the newspapers , and also word-of-mouth and also books and other print materials. and booker t. washington, in fact, was invited to dinner at the white house in 1901. president teddy roosevelt. this is very significant because washington was the first african-american who had ever been invited to dinner at the white house. and he was criticized for that by some. many of whom were what you might call haters. why him, you know, and not me? that kind of thing. but also, president roosevelt recognized washington for his efforts and had literally almost
appointed washington as a consulate, as a primary advisor for the affairs of people of african he is accident descent. and so booker t. washington served as really the first black presidential adviser on behalf of people of african descent, as well as american indians. so, washington is very, very important in this respect. also, president roosevelt roosevelt's wife were frequent visitors to tuskegee institute. not only the president -- president roosevelt, but many dignitaries. one of the reasons why and the primary reason why washington was able to amass such a large endowment for tuskegee institute is because his funding primarily came from liberal, white people who were very, very rich.
the rockefellers, in fact. the carnegies what is now the rockefeller foundation and carnegie foundation but during that era they were leaving and breathes people who founded these companies, were in fact contributors and supporters of tuskegee institute. and so, we have it here a picture of theodore roosevelt, president theodore roosevelt with booker t. washington at tuskegee, you know, institute. this is a controversial picture of booker t. washington. this is a controversial statue. this statue is at tuskegee institute. if you drive to tuskegee, even today, you will see this statue there. the statue is of booker t. washington, and the man crouching down is a slave. there he is, a blanket symbolic
of like a veil, and booker t. washington supposedly is lifting the veil off of the slave's face such that his eyes -- such that he can see, and progress to something better. those who are detractors of booker t. washington raise the question, was washington lifting the veil over the slave's eyes or was he pulling it down farther? because of his accommodationist beliefs. because washington believed that the best thing for people of african descent to do was not to pursue political and social equality at that particular time. but instead pursue economic empowerment. and that political and social equality would come some time later. although, he did come later and say that he still believed, however, that black people ought to have the right to vote.
and that afforded that right, that they ought to go vote. and exercise their voices. but that ought not be the primary on jettive that ought not be the number one priority of people of african descent. so this monument raises a critical question. there are people who have problems with booker t. washington. i think that is the source of the problem in some ways. was washington in fact leading the way, opening the path to greater opportunity for people of african descent? or was he trying somehow to retard progress for african-americans in lieu of other things? so, as i come to conclude my part in this and you will have your time to argue with me we have booker t. washington 's positive legacy.
tuskegee institute started in 1881. the network of hbcus during his lifetime from 1900 when he was really in prominence to 1915 when he dies. the legacy, of course, continues after that. the national negro business league, started in 1900. that was a tremendous thing for people of african descent economically. and then washington also supported and even helped found a number of african-american newspapers. this is extremely important because african-american newspapers were the primary means through which people of african descent not only received information, but also people would place ads and businesses would flourish because of african american newspapers. contribute to literacy. so african-american newspapers
were extremely important. but then there are those detractors of booker t. washington's. in terms of his negative legacy many might argue. of course at the top of the list is the atlanta physician address that many argue is in fact the atlanta compromise. it was delivered of course in 1895 at the atlanta industrial exposition. and you've read that speech. and so you know that booker t. washington, we said might even play into this racist structure, paradigm for people of african descent or labor, when he said let us work to rebuild the south. because he's here making a critique of those who are arguing that part of the reason a big reason why reconstruction failed was because people of african descent did not
participate participate fully the way that they should have. washington does not even address that argument. he simply says, let us work. and we'll help rebuild the south. of course when he says that, he plays into perhaps this whole notion of blacks as workers and perhaps that's all they really are. physical, racial bodies. so the atlanta exposition address is at the top of the list. second, we know that booker t. washington supported plessy versus ferguson the u.s. supreme court case that established, in fact separate but equal in american society. and that strengthened segregation. it was passed one year after the atlanta exposition address and many blamed the passage of plessy versus ferguson on booker t. washington. he was summoned in fact, and asked to testify before congress
about plessy versus ferguson, and he gave his blessing, you might say, to a kind of separate but equal arena separate but equal policies by the federal government government. this involved, of course, education, but then spilled over into other areas of life for people of african descent. now washington believed, and we come to his defense washington believed that whites who were racist, who were, in fact, trying their best not only to limit black participation, but to get rid of black people, cln cln remember was at its height. washington believed that these people would never accept people of african descent on equal footing as members of their particular group and their particular society. so integration was not even an option as far as washington was concerned. but washington believed is that
the root to independence and self-determination for african-americans was undergirded by them building up their own communities. so he had no problems with separate but equal. the problem is, of course, that plessy versus ferguson turned out to be separate but unequal, because of funding for various things education public works and other sorts of things were not equal in terms of black and white society. if you lived in the black part of town versus the white part of town, you did not get the same money spent per student. for example right here in georgia, anywhere from three to five times the amount of money spent on a black child was spent on a white child during the era, as a result of please is aversus ferguson. so washington gives part of the blame for that. and he is accused of being a
racial accommodationist, as well. he is essentially saying here in the latter part of the 19th and early 20th century that it is okay for american society to not only be segregated in all factors of life, but it is also okay for people of african descent not to be challenge that. but instead to live within the sphere of segregation. and then finally, we have washington's distinction being summoned and asked to appear at the white house for dinner, you know with the president in october of 1901. and then being the adviser -- of course to presidents william howard taft and theodore roosevelt this was very significant because this in fact, led to the establishment of a federal counsel for negro
affair affairs. later on a colleague inherited washington's legacy, one of them through hbcus. in fact became director of. and so washington's legacy is great. and i still believe that he is the man. that many of you argue he's not. now, to your arguments. >> i acknowledge that booker t. washington made extraordinary contributions to the black community. and he'ses man. he's cool and all. but martin luther king jr. was more influential in terms of overall history as a race leader. because booker t. washington said we're just going to kind of sit calmly and accept what this is for now. martin luther king worked for equality and for change. not just for black people. he worked for better standards
of living for everyone in america and booker t. washington seems very intent on pursuing a personal agenda and elevating his status in politics. being the first at the white house. martin luther king accomplished everything he did without an official office. and he's better. >> all right. he's just better, right? >> yep. >> he is also better because you are saying booker t. washington was the first, the only to be appointed to an office, but that does not make him the man overall because if you asked someone in this country whether they're 6, 16 or 60 who the preeminent symbol of racial equality is, martin luther king is the answer that comes up and that legacy holds more weight than any presidential appointment. >> okay. all right. who agrees with that? do you agree? do you agree? all right. what do you got to say?
[ inaudible ] >> let you think for a minute and come back, right? with your argument. yes, uh-huh? [ inaudible ] >> booker t. washington really had like a choice like, you know how you say he is like a racial accommodationist. >> mm-hmm. >> but you said that back in that time era like, the height of the kkk and he is in the deep south. so i mean would it have been smarter for him to go against like i mean did he have any other choice but to be a racial accommodationist at that time? would it have been -- i mean he wouldn't have gotten anything accomplished. he would have probably been killed before he had time like to really do anything. >> well, he would have most certainly have not lived as long a life as he did. he died when he was 59 years old. in 1915 was actually a pretty long time in terms of life expectancy.
but had he said, well, enough of segregation. we are going to march towards freedom and that sort of thing he would not have lived very long. understand, he was in alabama, which is one of the most racist oppressive states in the south. not only is he in alabama, but he is in rural alabama. even today, tuskegee university is a magnificent institution, but it is not in a real, what we call, urban center. and during the era during which booker t. washington came into power as the head of tuskegee institute in 1881, tuskegee was really a very small rural area. very remote. he tells us was tuskegee was
like in "up from slavery." i have often thought, what was life like really for booker t. washington? what kind of things did he see go on in alabama? i imagine if he didn't see it, he knew that black people were being lynched. that houses and churches and stuff probably being burned. there was a lot of violence against people of african descent. so part of his racial accommodationist discourse i'm sure, had something to do with not only his own self-preservation, but also the sense of if people of african descent are going to come through this thing, you know segregation and all that and make the impact, and become more independent people they're not going to be able to do it with a gun in your hand. just not going to work. see. now that is part of the same argument that martin luther king
made in terms of the nonviolent demonstrations in the south, you see. not only did king feel it was morally wrong to sink to the level of your oppressor. because they are killing you, you do not have to kill them back -- you know, shoot back at them. you need to rise to a higher moral stand. but king said another reason why i am against violence is we can't win. you just look at it practically we can't win. we can't win a war. in the early 1920s, in fact tulsa, oklahoma, an area that in fact, the national negro business league had helped establish as the black wall street, a lot of black banks, and you know all that sort of thing, economic interest in tulsa, oklahoma, it was known across the country as the black wall street, there was a race riot because a young black man
had been accused of wanting to rape a white woman in an elevator in a hotel. a race riot broke out and the u.s. military, air force bombed that part of tulsa, oklahoma from the air. so i mean there is reason to feel -- this was after booker t. washington died. but martin luther king, he was aware of that, that happening in tulsa, oklahoma. booker t. washington is aware of the atrocities happening in the black community at the hands of white racists. so, i think both of them are saying violence and confrontation is not the answer. that is not the answer. not violent confrontation. that's not the answer. of course, king takes it to another level, you know, as well. because king sees nonviolence as
a moral force that ultimately exposes the weakness and the inhumanity of those who perpetrate violence. so, if you are intent on not using violence and you face folks who do, and they continue to use violence, you don't and you maintain your dignity, who looks bad? this was king's point, you see. in one sense maybe he did not have, maybe booker t. washington did not have much of a choice in the same way that martin luther king felt that he didn't have much of a choice. and the civil rights movement didn't. on the other hand, the sense of the racial accommodationist, that is what is really problematic. w.e.b. dubois hated that about book irt. washington. so did william trotter and some other african-american leaders. couldn't stand it.
trotter hated booker t. washington so much until he would follow washington around wherever washington was going to speak, trotter would find where that was going to be and make arrangements so he could sit right in the front. and everything went fine. the singing and other kinds of things, until they introduced booker t. washington, and the minute they introduced washington, he got up and got ready to speak, trotted got up and start shouting him down. i mean he had -- washington had great opposition from significant people of african descent. although he and w.b. dubois never had a one lick argument. this is a misnomer, this is a fallacy. you have all this stuff going on. people writing stuff about dubois and washington at each other's throats, et cetera and all that. dubois only made two public statements about booker t. washington.
one was a chapter in "the souls of black folk," a very balanced critique of mr. washington. and the second one was after washington died, w.e.b. dubois wrote a eulogy for booker t. washington and published it in major newspaper. those are the only two public statements that dubois ever made about booker t. washington. and washington only mentioned dubois a couple of times. once in "up from slavery" where he is in boston and he says there's a young man with an interesting analysis and paper that he read. named dr. b.e.w. dubois. and he goes on. he didn't say anything about it. you know. they were two different generations, you know, et cetera. but dubois is criticizing washington, but washington is attempting to build
institutions. this is really washington's legacy. this is what distinguishes him from any other black leader, including martin luther king. martin luther king jr. dr. king was a tremendous leader, no question about it. you know, we don't think of the world the same way prior to martin luther king that he think of the world now. dr. king was the first person ever in the history of the world to say war is wrong, for example. no one had ever said that before. even jesus said we will have wars and rumors of wars. dr. king said, war is evil. it destroys communities. it destroys people. it destroys civilization. it destroys the land. it is a corruption of natural law. he said war is wrong. and we just don't think about war the same way now that folks
thought about it before dr. king made that kind of analysis. he changed the perspective about that. and the power of nonviolence. we think of that differently after dr. king. gandhi in india had established the paradigm for nonviolence but it was dr. king that brought it to international, you know, awareness through the civil rights movement. you know. people lived during the times, they live during their ages. and we can't take them out of those ages and put them in somewhere else and say okay you don't like booker t. washington because of the racial accommodationist, that wasn't right or something like that. may not have been right. but we have to look at it within the context of what he was dealing with. so i think your question is very, very appropriate. maybe he did not have the kind of options that we think he ought to have had to talk about racial accommodationist.
i do think however that washington honestly did believe that it was better for people of african descent to accept and work within the arena of segregation than to spend their effort challenging it. i have read enough of washington's writings, know enough about his life and the things that he believed that i honestly believe that. that washington thought that it was better for people of african descent to simply build up their own communities. if they build up their own communities, establish an economic base, the walls of segregation eventually might come down. and if they don't come down who cares? because we have our own. that's how washington felt. that's really how he felt. is that, who cares if folks like you or don't like you if they don't sign your check.
this was in washington's mind. you know. who cares if they don't let us in to their universities, and our universities are all on par? you know. who cares if we can't live on that side of town and we have nice houses on this side of town? well washington's argument is don't worry about all that that's going on on that side of town. build up our side of town. yes. [ inaudible ] -- slavery where washington was talking about how originally he felt when an individual made a statement in favor of segregation or racism of any type, it would anger him, but he reached a point in his life or he would ignore it, because he realized that eventually racial equality would be a reality and those individuals were essentially standing on the train tracks when the train was coming down the line. i guess my question is, do you think washington foresaw the increase in the number of pro-african-american civil
rights organizations from world war i to world war ii and on into the movement through his strategy of economic uplift? >> i don't know if he foresaw it. i know he laid the groundwork for it. i don't want to make a prophet out of booker t. washington or anything in terms of his fear seeing anything. but i do know that he laid the groundwork for the number of organizations that developed, you know later on, like the congress of racial equality, urban league, and all of that have direct relations to booker t. washington's legacy. and the national negro business league. especially the urban league. in fact the linkage is clear. you know, even core conservation of equality and the national heritage league became some heritage to booker t.
washington. so, in that respect, yes, washington did lay the groundwork that later on other organizations, civil rights organizations claimed his legacy. also, marcus garvey, who was the leader of the back to africa movement, claimed direct lineage from booker t. washington. social lineage. he was not related to him by l1hcf blood, but in terms of the intellect, these social activism tradition, he saw himself as carrying the legacy of booker t. washington. he admired him. he thought he was the greatest man alive. he carried with him everywhere he went a copy of "up from slavery." he came to america from jamaica to work with booker t. washington but by the time he got here, washington was dead. so he said okay, washington is dead, who now do i talk to
about, you know, this race thing? and folks said the man now is w.e.b. dubois. but he went and tried -- met with dubois, and was turned off by dubois. if you know much about dubois, you can understand how a person could be turned off dubois. he was a brilliant man but not all that great socially. you know. pretty uppity fellow. marcus garvey said, now this guy can't be a race leader because he don't look right. he's too light skinned got hazel eyes, so-called good hair and all that. in jamaica, those people were problems. so garvey started the universal negro improvement association unia. and claimed direct lineage to booker t. washington and later on the nation of islam. in fact that's inherent of the garvey movement.
saw themselves, of course, as well having a relationship with booker t. washington. you know, in terms of social you know and intellectual tradition. and elijah mohammed who was the founder of the nation of islam often would quote booker t. washington. you have this strain of thought in the african-americane @ community that comes straight out of booker t. washington that we refer to as black nationalism. the problem, of course for nationalists, is ultimately you have to say, okay how are your nation, where is your land? because in order to have a nation you have to have land somewhere. washington felt that he could solve this problem because he actually went to congress and asked that there be some states set aside. got it cleared with the president and congress that there could be some states set aside for black americans to
migrate to and establish their own communities, their own states, and that sort of thing. so in washington's mind we're going to have true black nationalism. none of this segregation, you go over on that side of town. we're going to have our own states. and part of the problem is that the states that booker t. washington was talking about were undesirable for people of african descent. places like montana and you know, upper great plains. too cold, too barren, and all of that. and then second, african-american leaders and others were not desirous of separating out and going to states where there would only be black people of african descent, or the great majority of african descent, because they felt that would make it easy to get rid of black folks. genocide would be easy. they had already bombed tulsa, oklahoma.
how easy would it be if 90% of black folk lived in the upper great plains? just get on a plane with some bombs, go there and get rid of black folks. black folks didn't go. what did happen as a result of booker t. washington that i did not put on the powerpoint, there was a settlement of all-black towns that was an offshoot of this nationalist urge. in fact in 1904 booker t. washington gave the commencement address at the university of nebraska-lincoln. in which he advocated the settlement of all-black towns. by this time he had given up on the notion of all-black states. but he was advocating the settlement of all-black towns. and as a result of washington's trek through the upper south, midwest, and great plains, there were all-black towns that were developed.
and partly as a result of booker t. washington's legacy. for example, in nebraska, there were like five all-black towns. there were all-black towns in kansas oklahoma oklahoma still has predominantly all-black towns that came out of that settlement. boldy, oklahoma, which is the site of the national black rodeo every year. montana had two all-black towns. i've taught students from both of those towns over the course of my career. texas had some all-black towns, et cetera. and so washington's legacy was let's have our own. let's have our own thing. yes? [ inaudible ] >> -- negro business league, what happened to it? because, on saturday, i went to a local community here called pleasant hill and a lady there was giving a history lesson about how in the past they had all these black leaders doctors, lawyers within that
community. but she said nowadays, i mean if you look around at the community you'll see that those houses that were nice back in the early 1900s, they're not in mint condition anymore. they're just poor. you said the national negro business league funded those black communities and towns headed by booker t. washington, so what happened to it? >> integration. when integration came, many blacks found it more attractive to live, work, spend money in predominantly white communities instead of their own. i was a student coming out of junior high school into high school when integration supposedly happened. in the community in which i
lived, it did not happen. but i remember the discourse. i remember the discussions about that. since then the quo when of integration and what has happened with african-american communities. one thing that has happened has been the ghettoizing of black communities, because those who were more economically and politely upwardly mobile, left black communities. so black communities were robbed of resources, its primary source, which was people. so, doctors, lawyers professors, you know, teachers et cetera, left the historic black communities, and moved into more integrated areas. a lot of times, for very good reasons. they could get better housing, for example. nicer neighborhoods. nicer stores. better schools. you know. all that sort of thing.
but the fallacy in integration was that many people of african descent did not support integration simply to live amongst whites. they saw that as a means to an end, which was equality. the philosophy behind integration was if we move over there with the white people, go to their schools and all of that, we will be able to share in those resources. for example, in a practical way, if you are sitting in a classroom, black student in a white classroom predominantly white classes the teacher gets up to teach, that teacher cannot teach those white kids without teaching the black. if books are handed out, that black kid is going to get a new textbook, too. whatever resources that are going to be handed out and available, the black people will have access to those resources
in integration. you see? that was the theory behind integration. it didn't quite work that way. you know, necessarily. but that was the theory behind integration. it was a means to an end instead of an end to itself. don't have to sit at a lunch counter next to somebody white, just because you want to sit there next to somebody white. all right? but the fact is that that particular restaurant in the white neighborhoods, they have better cuts of meat. the people are being paid a little bit more. the structure is better, the neighborhood, et cetera and all that. so we integrate there, we have access to those resources. it is all about resources. not so much about black people who did not feel comfortable around other black people. it is about accessing resources.
but in that move to somehow improve the conditions of people of african dissent through integration, resources over here, lack of resources over here. let's go where the resources are. doing that the intelligence yeah, the most economically viable of our community the kind of power base of the black community pulled out and went across town. and that left the black community increasingly ghettoized. and that's why you see situation as it is yesterday over generations that has occurred. i have seen it in my own life. >> the fact they integrated with the whites, why did that affect the national negro business league from still keeping its promise and doing what it was supposed to do within the black community? what happened to that organization?
>> that organization became part of the national urban league. that is an organization that has spurred black businesses and that sort of thing. that organization did not end its work in african-american communities. part of the problem is black businesses tend not to have resources to start up. most businesses in america fail within the first three years. anytime you're trying to start a business in america, and i know because i had a little business at one time, a mental health center when i was in illinois and i went through the small business administration, training, to try to do that. really a ministry right. but still you need money. so i went through the training. one thing they told us, i was in a room with 20 other people trying to start up stuff.
if you are going to start a business, you need to have three to five years of cash money in terms of operating money. you need to have that set aside. and don't touch it. because, don't expect your business to even pay your salary, much less turn a profit for the first three to five years. most black businesses can't do that. i mean, people start up an a shoestring. if they run into problems, within usually something like six to nine months something like that, a lot of businesses end up closing in the black community because they cannot sustain that period where you don't get a check. you know. that has a lot to do with it as well. yes. >> i think to some degree what she was talking about, the breakdown of the black community, can be attributed the philosophy that booker t. washington had. >> you going to say that --
said that the black communities should be seen as equal had to prove themselves as absolutely dispensable or the rest of the community couldn't survive without them. you are perpetuating this idea i am not equal because i am human, i am only equal because i work really really hard for it, then when integration happened, some affluent black people probably felt like, well this is my time to shine this is my time to prove that i'm useful and so they moved out of those communities. and so maybe if he wasn't such a racial accommodationist earlier known those structures that were successful could have maintained and could have stayed because they were already in the mind-set that we're equal how we are. and he didn't teach that. but martin luther king did. >> well, i mean, in saying that booker t. washington was the most influential,
powerful black american that has not been elected to office, i don't mean to say that i agree with him. there is a lot about booker t. washington i don't like, i don't agree. however, washington was in a position after 1900 to say yea or nay to things people of african-american descent were trying to get started that were being supported by state and federal funds. i've spoken with people for example, older african-americans and older whites who were trying to participate in this racial uplifting movement, who were starting schools, or businesses, or you know, anything such as that. many of them said that in order to get it started, they knew they had to get washington on board. so they wrote a letter to booker
t. washington or talked to someone who knew, had access to booker t. washington. as long as he didn't speak against you, you were okay. if you had a job, if you got a job that was being funded by the state or federal government and you came out against washington or washington's program, you would find yourself unemployed. so i don't agree necessarily with washington because he did become kind of a demagogue after awhile. no question about that. of course there were some charges against martin luther king that way, too that he thought he was the lord. you know, that kind of stuff. critique of him. folks would call him the lord, you know, et cetera. any sometime a person achieves that sort of status, you know they're going to have they're detractors, their haters. martin luther king was a tremendous national and international figure.
no question about that. life is different for us because of dr. king's leadership. and what that movement was able to do. the civil rights movement. but life is also different because of what booker t. washington was able to do. martin luther king even credited booker t. washington with some of the successes of the early parts of the civil rights movement because some of the civil rights movement was also economic justice. later on in fact when dr. king was, in fact, assassinated he was planning a march on washington, and the whole thing was to march 250,000 people to washington, d.c. and the bring the united states government to a halt. lay down on runways so planes couldn't take off. and that kind of stuff. just literally a huge act of civil disobedience.
the demand was everyone in america be guaranteed a minimum livable wage. that was what the king movement, the civil rights movement ultimately ended at that point of saying we must have economic justice and there should be a guaranteed salary. no matter whether you are flipping hamburgers or lecturing before c-span. there ought to be a guaranteed minimum salary for everybody in america. when you look at that, smacks of booker t. in there somewhere. doesn't it? a little booker t. in there somewhere, you know. people lived during the era, you know, and people build on the successes and the failures of those who have come, you know, before them.
i still think i won this argument myself. you probably think you won, and that's okay. that's fine. i believe we have a tremendous historical figure here it's a dynamic period in american history, and for people of african descent, it really is so much so that we have in terms of the legacy of booker t. washington, we have many things in american society many folks who look at booker t. washington as a tremendous figure. even the president of the united states, president barack obama has paid tribute to booker t. washington. and also martin luther king. when i look at these two great leaders, i say there is something about each one of them that contributed significantly to black progress for people of african descent. there are things about both of them also that we could
criticize. martin luther king may have stayed with the nonviolence thing a little bit too long, a lot of people say. you know. in fact later on in his life, he questioned whether or not nonviolence could work in an unethical society. because the premise of nonviolence is that sooner or later the folk who are pressing you are going to get embarrassed or something. you know, feel like oh, my god, we're really making ourselves look bad. but what if the folks who are oppressing you don't have that kind of humanity? some folks just don't have shame. if you are trying to shame someone who does not have any shame, you are in trouble. martin luther king ultimately came to that point and questioned that. you read his books. and ultimately at one point martin luther king questioned said can nonviolence work? and this is after he went to chicago. the kind of structures in
chicago were not the same as in the south. in the south, especially the deep south, to gather more than two or three block people together at the same time you disrupted the whole fabric of that society. there were laws against that. any public assembly of black folk, one or two, or something like that, you got to get rid of them. he went to chicago and marched right through skokie you know illinois. didn't bother anybody. because in chicago, people do that kind of stuff all the time. march. black folk walking down the street together and that kind of thing. just by the very presence of 500 black people marching, it did not necessarily bother anyone in an urban city in the north. so there were things about dr.
king and his perspective in the movement that fell short, no question about that. but nonetheless, we experience a better life because what he did. we experience a better life because of what booker t. washington did. if i could talk to booker t. washington now, have a conversation with him, i think i would argue with him about a lot of stuff. no question about that. but i also salute the fact that he was the man. no question about it. he was the man. one last question or comment? anyone? yes. >> i would say he was either the most powerful or the most influential because they're different. i will give you he was the most powerful because of his appointed office. but i feel like martin luther king was the most influential. >> it is hard to make a distinction between powerful and influential when you're
looking -- it depends on the basis in which you're looking, okay. what i am saying is martin luther king, no question about it, had a great amount of influence. passing the civil rights act, you know. desegregation of the south, you know. that sort of thing. no question about it. the whole question of war, calling into question you know, war, which led mysab say no we're not going to vietnam. you know. i refused to go. and i was ready to go to jail. turns out i didn't have to go to jail because of the draft at that time. so dr. king was very, very influential, no question about it. but what i'm looking at in terms of institution building, the legacy that you leave, dr. king's legacy is different than booker t. washington's legacy. dr. king leaves us a legacy of a society that operates differently.
blacks and whites sitting in the same classroom, coming to you know -- going to eat together, you know doing things together dating each other, growing up, all that kind of stuff. that wouldn't have been possible without the civil rights movement. no question about that. but when you look at the kind of legacy of booker t. washington, who believed that institutions are what transforms reality and the opportunities for people, and booker t. washington is the only black leader, social leader, that left institutions. xñ!iv no other one. not even martin luther king left institutions. he left an organization. the southern christian leadership conference can't get along with each other. you know, they fight. w.e.b. dubois and the naacp, they can't get it together now.
arguing, fussing and fighting and carrying on. but if you just look at booker t. washington, and what he did for hbcus, still well over 80% of black folks are educated. you know. still where seven or eight out of every 10 doctors and lawyers are still being educated at hbcus. you know that kind of black leadership and black intelligentsia coming out of hbcus and a lot of that had to do with booker t. washington's support. i meanly, sending money their way so that they could survive all that. so you have legacies in different ways. you have one institutional legacy. and another one a legacy in terms of transforming american society for resources and opportunities. we will continue with this argument throughout the semester i am sure, and ultimately i will win. thank you so m