The Each One.. Teach Ones Series. Vol I

What’s up Black Folk?  I’m back to shed light on a subject that I have been talking about on Twitter aa_dubois_subj_e,with a couple of other “young urban professionals” and that topic is the responsibility of the the “Talented Tenth”. I was recently told by some of my peers that they see me as a person who has the passion, and the drive to help uplift my community, by using this wonderful gift or writing that the Good Lord has bestowed upon me.  So I decided to start a series called “Each One Teach One” This will be a series dedicated to helping my fellow black folks to see through the bullshit that life constantly deals us on a regular basis.  If you listen I’m glad I could help, If you don’t then *Train Conductor Voice* Next Stop Ignorance.. Watch the closing doors!!!! *Bing Bong*

“The Talented Tenth”

“The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men. The problem of education, then, among Negroes must first of all deal with the Talented Tenth; it is the problem of developing the Best of this race that they may guide the Mass away from the contamination and death of the Worst, in their own and other races. Now the training of men is a difficult and intricate task. Its technique is a matter for educational experts, but its object is for the vision of seers. If we make money the object of man training, we shall develop money-makers but not necessarily men; if we make technical skill the object of education, we may possess artisans but not, in nature, men. Men we shall have only as we make manhood the object of the work of the schools—intelligence, broad sympathy, knowledge of the world that was and is, and of the relation of men to it—this is the curriculum of that Higher Education which must underlie true life. On this foundation we may build bread winning, skill of hand and quickness of brain, with never a fear lest the child and man mistake the means of living for the object of life”

Do you see much difference between the plight of African-Americans then and now? Indeed, African Americans now have the ways and means of obtaining an education however less and less African American males graduate from high school, the existence of African American males in institutions of higher education are sparse. As a whole we have learned various ways of obtaining wealth, especially in the Hip Hop generation. But have those ‘best’ of the race guided the masses away from contamination and death or bought us ever closer to the counterproductive life style that keeps us in limbo over a hundred years after this text was written? Have we made the mistake of viewing the means of living with the object of living?

If this be true—and who can deny it—three tasks lay before me; first to show from the past that the Talented Tenth as they have risen among American Negroes have been worthy of leadership; secondly, to show how these men may be educated and developed; and thirdly, to show their relation to the Negro problem . . . .

“From the very first it has, been the educated and intelligent of the Negro people that have led and elevated the mass, and the sole obstacles that nullified and retarded their efforts were slavery and race prejudice..”

‘The educated and intelligent among us have led us, their only obstacle was slavery and prejudice
Does that then mean that education is a time and place less effected by slavery and race prejudice will result in more educated and intelligent African Americans who can than lead the masses? If at first you want to change the game, you must first learn the game. By obtaining an education a person has the opportunity to ‘speak another language’ that language is the words, terms, systems and understanding of the processing that we are all a part of. It makes it terribly difficult to change your position in a game if you do not know the rules. By being un-educated about the rules to any game you choose to participate in almost surely destines one to fail or at best to remain a low position. For us to gain control and power in our immediate environment and the world stage, African Americans must use the tools of education, the ‘rule book’ to which other races study, memorize and use to execute moves that tip the scales in their favor as a people.

And so we come to the present—a day of cowardice and vacillation, of strident wide-voiced wrong and faint hearted compromise; of double-faced dallying with Truth and Right. Who are today guiding the work of the Negro people? The “exceptions” of course. And yet so sure as this Talented Tenth is pointed out, the blind worshippers of the average cry out in alarm; “These are exceptions, look here at death, disease and crime—these are the happy rule.” Of course they are the rule, because a silly nation made them the rule: Because for three long centuries this people lynched Negroes who dared to be brave, raped black women who dared to be virtuous, crushed dark-hued youth who dared to be ambitious, and encouraged and made to flourish servility and lewdness and apathy. But not even this was able to crush all manhood and chastity and aspiration from black folk. A saving remnant continually survives and persists, continually aspires, continually shows itself in thrift and ability and character. Exceptional it is to be sure, but this is its chief’s promise; it shows the capability of Negro blood, the promise of black men . . . . Is it fair, is it decent, is it Christian to ignore these facts of the Negro problem, to belittle such aspiration, to nullify such leadership and seek to crush these people back into the mass out of which by toil and travail, they and their fathers have raised themselves?
Bill Cosby caught hell when he pubicly  pointed fingers at the African American community. “How dare he blame the victim?”, is what the masses cried. But think about this…one hundred years later, the African American community refuses to speak in unison against the behaviors and practices that cause social, economic and psychological stagnation. “The only difference between a average man and a great man is that the great man put actions behind his words while the average man stood by watching him do it”. In the face of all that African Americans have had to deal with throughout history, we have prevailed when we chose to not take ‘no’ for an answer. Surely we all suffer from setbacks, death, financial problems and lack of resources at one time or another. My question to you is what strides have you made when NOT in the midst of some debilitating situation?

Can the masses of the Negro people be in any possible way more quickly raised than by the effort and example of this aristocracy of talent and character? Was there ever a nation on God’s fair earth civilized from the bottom upward? Never; it is, ever was and ever will be from the top downward that culture filters. The Talented Tenth rises and pulls all that are worth the saving up to their vantage ground. This is the history of human progress

African Americans have suffered a great deal at the hands of many countries and many decades in time. Screaming of the lack of fairness in the treatment of our people is an exercise in futility. Those that oppress blacks are well aware of the oppressive actions. They were purposeful. They were powerful. They were real. But what about now? If you are capable, willing and accepting of the work that it takes to pull yourself up and the people around you, do not cry for those that refuse to move forward. Tenacity allows for elevation, nothing more. Your choice to press forward versus ones choice to sit still is simply a matter of human nature. In all cultures, throughout time….only the strong will survive. Nothing has changed.

How then shall the leaders of a struggling people be trained and the hands of the risen few strengthened? There can be but one answer: The best and most capable of their youth must be schooled in the colleges and universities of the land. . . . All men cannot go to college but some men must; every isolated group or nation must have its yeast, must have for the talented few centers of training where men are not so mystified and befuddled by the hard and necessary toil of earning a living, as to have no aims higher than their bellies, and no God greater than Gold. This is true training, and thus in the beginning were the favored sons of the freedom trained. Out of the colleges of the North came, after the blood of war, Ware, Cravat, Chase, Andrews, Bumstead and Spence to build the foundations of knowledge and civilization in the black South. Where ought they have begun to build? At the bottom, of course, quibbles the mole with his eyes in the earth. Aye! truly at the bottom, at the very bottom; at the bottom of knowledge, down in the very depth of knowledge they’re where the roots of justice strike into the lowest soil of truth. And so they did begin; they founded colleges, and up from the colleges shot normal schools, and out from the normal schools went teachers, and around the normal teachers clustered other teachers to teach the public schools; the college trained in Greek and Latin and mathematics, 2,000 men; and these men trained full 50,000 others in morals and manners, and they in turn taught thrift and the alphabet to nine millions of men who to-day hold $300,000,000 of property. It was a miracle—the most wonderful peace-battle of the 19th century, and yet to-day men smile at it, and in fine superiority tell us that it was all a strange mistake; that a proper way to found a system of education is first to gather the children and buy them spelling books and hoes; afterward men may look about for teachers, if haply they may find them; or again they would teach men Work, but as for Life—why, what has Work to do with Life, they ask vacantly. . . .

These figures illustrate vividly the function of the college-bred Negro. He is, as he ought to be, the group leader, the man who sets the ideals of the community where he lives, directs its thoughts and heads its social movements. It need hardly be argued that the Negro people need social leadership more than most groups; that they have no traditions to fall back upon, no long established customs, no strong family ties, no well defined social classes. All these things must be slowly and painfully evolved. The preacher was, even before the war, the group leader of the Negroes, and the church their greatest social institution. Naturally this preacher was ignorant and often immoral, and the problem of replacing the older type by better-educated men has been a difficult one. Both by direct work and by direct influence on other preachers, and on congregations, the college-bred preacher has an opportunity for reformatory work and moral inspiration, the value of which cannot be overestimated.

It is 2009, are African Americans still in need of “social leadership”? Evidence to the affirmative can be found in our crime ridden neighborhoods, in our lack of men leading households, in the amount of unemployed African American men, in the lack of earning potential and wealth established by African American families. Where are the college-educated leaders? Have they obtained their education and used it like Metro card to escape the sullen, dark, neglected lives of African Americans to a place filled with safety, security, hope and opportunity? Have you or do you take the time to talk, train, encourage, lead and share your encouragement and knowledge? There is no way to dispel the theory that when knowledge is obtained and passed around, we all benefit from it. Do not underestimate the impact of a conversation, a question answered or an idea conveyed to another person who is in the process of ‘finding their way’. Leaders are not made, they are groomed. Do not be so naive as to think the leaders of other cultures possess something we do not. The only difference is that other cultures work together for the greater good of their people. We only need to do the same.

It has, however, been iLincoln Universityn the furnishing of teachers that the Negro college has found its peculiar function. Few persons realize how vast a work, how mighty a revolution has been thus accomplished. To furnish five million or more uneducated people with teachers of their own race and blood, in one generation, was not only a very difficult undertaking, but a very important one, in that it placed before the eyes of almost every Negro child an attainable ideal. It brought the masses of the blacks in contact with modern civilization, made black men the leaders of their communities and trainers of the new generation. In this work college-bred Negroes were first teachers, and then teachers of teachers. And here it is that the broad culture of college work has been of peculiar value. Knowledge of life and its wider meaning, has been the point of the Negro’s deepest ignorance, and the sending out of teachers whose training has not been simply for bread winning, but also for human culture, has been of inestimable value in the training of these men. . . .

“The main question, so far as the Southern Negro is concerned, is: What under the present circumstance, must a system of education do in order to raise the Negro as quickly as possible in the scale of civilization? The answer to this question seems to me clear: It must strengthen the Negro’s character, increase his knowledge and teach him to earn a living. Now it goes without saying, that it is hard to do all these things simultaneously or suddenly, and that at the same time it will not do to give all the attention to one and neglect the others; we could give black boys trades, but that alone will not civilize a race of ex-slaves; we might simply increase their knowledge of the world, but this would not necessarily make them wish to use this knowledge honestly; we might seek to strengthen character and purpose, but to what end if this people have nothing to eat or to wear? . . . . If then we start out to train an ignorant and unskilled people with a heritage of bad habits, our system of training must set before itself two great aims—the one dealing with knowledge and character, the other part seeking to give the child the technical knowledge necessary for him to earn a living under the present circumstances. These objects are accomplished in part by the opening of the common schools on the one, and of the industrial schools on the other. But only in part, for there must also be trained those who are to teach these schools—men and women of knowledge and culture and technical skill who understand modern civilization, and have the training and aptitude to impart it to the children under them. There must be teachers, and teachers of teachers, and to attempt to establish any sort of a system of common and industrial school training, without first (and I say first advisedly) without first providing for the higher training of the very best teachers, is simply throwing your money to the winds . . . Nothing, in these latter days, has so dampened the faith of thinking Negroes in recent educational movements, as the fact that such movements have been accompanied by ridicule and denouncement and decrying of those very institutions of higher training which made the Negro public school possible, and make Negro industrial schools thinkable.”

The most basic value of an education is that it teaches you general information. In order to breed intelligent young people of color we can’t just teach books. We must also include lessons on character, behavior, purpose, family, and finances…all the things that are needed to establish a viable, stable existence. How dare some people in this day and age ridicule those who peruse higher learning as if the option and promise of doing better in this current world is a thing to dispel! The same doubting and lack of faith was suffered by people of color in this country when we at one time stood together to insist that we are capable, we are equal and deserving of the same tools enlisted by others in their pursuit of ‘life, liberty and happiness’. Education alone will not create a more viable, civilized society for African Americans. Only when one becomes knowledgeable about society, systems and life as a whole will we be able to uplift ourselves. There are those that feel integration is a form of defeat. How then does one go about living successfully in a world that is integrated and interchangeable? If you choose to not play by the rules, you can almost guarantee failure to success at the game. Everything has rules, learning them, maneuvering them and gaining leverage is the ONLY way to change those rules. Until then, we must play the game as it is.

I would not deny, or for a moment seem to deny, the paramount necessity of teaching the Negro to work, and to work steadily and skillfully; or seem to depreciate in the slightest degree the important part industrial schools must play in the accomplishment of these ends, but I do say, and insist upon it, that it is industrialism drunk, with its vision of success, to imagine that its own work can be accomplished without providing for the training of broadly cultured men and women to teach its own teachers, and to teach the teachers of the public schools.

“But I have already said that human education is not simply a matter of schools; it is much more a matter of family and group life—the training of ones home, of ones daily companions, of ones social class. Now the black boy of the South moves in a black world—a world with its own leaders, its own thoughts, and its own ideals. In this world he gets by far the larger part of his life training, and through the eyes of this dark world he peers into the veiled world beyond. Who guides and determines the education, which he receives in his world? His teachers here are the group-leaders of the Negro people—the physicians and clergymen, the trained fathers and mothers, the influential and forceful men about him of all kinds; here it is, if at all, that all culture of the surrounding world trickles through and is handed on by the graduates of the higher schools. Can such culture training of group leaders be neglected? Can we afford to ignore it? . . . You have no choice; either you must help furnish this race from within its own ranks with thoughtful men of trained leadership, or you must suffer the evil consequences of a headless misguided rabble.

An education of any kind has limits if one does not know how to go about the social education one needs to learn how to maneuver through life. Those that have reached places that others haven’t should reach back to those who are capable of reaching and grooming  them. Can you afford to sit upon your perch above the African American average and pass judgment? Clucking your teeth at the despair of those who did not have the opportunities, directions, assertion and chance that you had. No man is an island and any person that feels they reached their level of success without help from other is a liar. By practicing, “Each one, Teach one” and your experiences, struggles and accomplishments will have a greater impact. Allow your trials and ‘rule book’ to teach the young, so that in time, they too can lead by example. Let’s invoke the spirit of sharing information. Do not horde knowledge. Instead show by example, that success is a by-product of hard work, education, decisive decision making skills and tenacity.

I am an earnest advocate of manual training and trade teaching for black boys and for white boys, too. I believe that next to the founding of Negro colleges the most valuable addition to Negro education since the war, has been industrial training for black boys. Nevertheless, I insist that the object of all true education is not to make men carpenters, it is to make carpenters men; there are two means of making the carpenter a man, each equally important: the first is to give the group and community in which he works, liberally trained teachers and leaders to teach him and his family what life means; the second is to give him sufficient intelligence and technical skill to make him an efficient workman; the first object demands the Negro college and college-bred men—not a quantity of such colleges, but a few of excellent quality; not too many college-bred men, but enough to leaven the lump, to inspire the masses, to raise the Talented Tenth to leadership; the second object demands a good system of common schools, well-taught, conventionally located and properly equipped . . . .

Further than this, after being provided with group leaders of civilization, and a foundation of intelligence in the public schools, the carpenter, in order to be a man, needs technical skill. This calls for trade schools. . . .

“Even at this point, however, the difficulties were not surmounted. In the first place modern industry has taken great strides since the war, and the teaching of trades is no longer a simple matter. Machinery and long processes of work have greatly changed the work of the carpenter, the iron worker and the shoemaker. A really efficient workman must be to-day an intelligent man who has had good technical training in addition to thorough common school, and perhaps even higher training.”

Knowing how to do something is necessary to earning an income. Technical knowledge plus intelligence is necessary for taking that income and growing it, making it work to your benefit and making sound business decisions. In this age of technology, constantly emerging global players and unlimited imagination it is urgent that you know the why, the how, the who and the what of all things involving money and business. If you don’t, you are left to the way side as changes come and go, taking your livelihood with it. You are then only left to complain to those who are also in your predicament, no protection, and no answer. Often you don’t know how someone pulled a trick over on you until after the damage is done.

“Thus, again, in the manning of trade schools and manual training schools we are thrown back upon the higher training as its source and chief support. There was a time when any aged and worn-out carpenter could teach in a trade school. But not so today. Indeed the demand for college-bred men by a school like Tuskegee, ought to make Mr. Booker T Washington the firmest friend of higher training. Here he has as helpers the son of a Negro senator, trained in Greek and the humanities, and graduated at Harvard; the son of a Negro congressman and lawyer, trained in Latin and mathematics, and graduated at Oberlin; he has as his wife, a woman who read Virgil and Homer in the same class room with me; he has as college chaplain, a classical graduate of Atlanta University; as teacher of science, a graduate of Fisk; as teacher of history, a graduate of Smith,—indeed some thirty of his chief teachers are college graduates, and instead of studying French grammars in the midst of weeds, or buying pianos for dirty cabins, they are at Mr. Washington’s right hand helping him in a noble work. And yet one of the effects of Mr. Washington’s propaganda has been to throw doubt upon the expediency of such training for Negroes, as these persons have had.”

Booker T. WashingtonBe clear about W.E.B. Dubois’s criticism of Booker T. Washington. Both Dubois and Washington were educated men, however, Washington promoted trade schools as a viable alternative education for African Americans. Dubois points out that although Washington promotes a trade education as ‘just as good’ as a university education,  , Washington’s wife and his closest aides are all products of a college education. How then, can a trade education be just as good if the trade school educated are neither valued as bright enough to teach trade in these trade schools nor are these people competent enough to assist Mr. Washington in his movement to uplift people of color? When you see advertisements displaying the benefits of other ‘just as good’ programs such as the United States Military, Job Corp or urban trade schools that promise a viable education in less than six months part time, ask yourself, do you see evidence of these programs creating value in the people who attend them in your everyday life? Does trade school make it easier to finding viable employment as a semi-skilled worker. Do these trade schools also train you to one day become owners or will you forever be on the lower rung until someone is kind enough to teach you the real life key to becoming an owner? What if that person/opportunity never shows up? Do you have time to wait on it? Will joining the military make your life different once you have signed over your life to the government? When you are through basic training and back among civilians, will you only be left with an I.O.U. from the recruiter or even worse, deployed to a war only to return less of a person than you were, missing your limbs, your mind or both? Learn to recognize a sales pitch when you see one. Decide whether what you are buying is worth the fee you will pay, in money, time or blood.

“Men of America, the problem is plain before you. Here is a race transplanted through the criminal foolishness of your fathers. Whether you like it or not the millions are here, and here they will remain. If you do not lift them up, they will pull you down. Education and work are the levers to uplift a people. Work alone will not do it unless inspired by the right ideals and guided by intelligence. Education must not simply teach work—it must teach Life. The Talented Tenth of the Negro race must be made leaders of thought and missionaries of culture among their people. No others can do this and Negro colleges must train men for it. The Negro race, like all other races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men.”

There is only one game in town if you want to be legitimate, viable and established. Do not allow people who have not done their work to drain you of your resources. Give back by encouraging, promoting and guiding those who question you about your journey but remember you cannot walk the walk for them. Ask yourself daily ‘who will save us? Who will save you?’

W.E.B. Du Bois, “The Talented Tenth,” from The Negro Problem: A Series of Articles by Representative Negroes of To-day (New York, 1903).



  1. […] This post was Twitted by ElHafiz – […]

  2. Glad to see a young black male thininking about ways to help the entire race. Its very seldom that black males are recognized for anything besides illegal activity, rapping, and sports. I appreciate your knowledge, and care for our overall well being. Keep up the great work!!!

    • Thank you md20737 I am doing my best to put young black men in a positive light… And remind the world why we are truly a force to be reckoned with.. I hope to continue to bring you a fresh perspective on real world views..

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