Booker T. Washington
Ida B. Wells
Educator, social activist and writer.
Booker T. Washington was born on a plantation near Hale's Ford,
Virginia. His mother was a slave and his father's identity is
unknown. Many of the older slaves sought to try their freedom
on the outside, only to come back in time and make deals with
Washington, from as early as he can remember, had an intense
interest in learning to read. He spent part of his adolescence
in Malden, West Virginia, where he worked in the salt furnaces
and the coal mines. From 1872 to 1875 he attended Hampton Normal
and Agricultural Institute, now known as Hampton University.
After graduation, he began teaching in Malden, and he later
served as an instructor at Hampton Institute. In 1881 he founded
Tuskegee Normal and Indus- trial Institute, now known as Tuskegee
University. The college, which is located in Tuskegee, Alabama,
was founded to train black men and women in technical and professional
fields. Washington served as the school's principal and as a college
professor until 1915, and developed it into a leading industrial
and agricultural training institute. He eventually became the
most powerful African American of his day. He used his influence
to espouse the virtues of black self reliance, hard work, thrift,
and political acquiescence.
His public speeches were crafted with Skill and generosity. During
his speech to the National Education Association in Wisconsin,
Washington remembers "A white lady who was teacher in a college
in Tuskegee wrote back to the local paper that she was gratified,
as well as surprised, to note the credit which I gave the white
people of Tuskegee for their help in getting the school started."
To much of everyone's surprise, he spoke fondly of the South
and how the South has promoted Black education. This proved to
be a point controversy through much of his life.
Washington was heavily involved with several African newspapers
including The New York Age, The Indianapolis Freeman, Chicago
Appeal, and The Boston Colored Citizen. He used the money he received
fromseveral wealthy white philanthropists to clandestinely subsidize
black news-papers, control their editorial viewpoint and promote
his political positions and Tuskegee Institute. Some black papers
such as The Boston Guardian were strongly opposed to Washington,
attacked his accomodationist political ideologies, and consequently
did not benefit from his patronage.
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Journalist, anti-lynching crusader and cofounder of the NAACP.
Ida B. Wells, an investigative journalist and human rights activist
made great strides for human equality. Although Wells was born
to slave parents in Holly Springs, Mississippi, her life chances
were enhanced by her opportunity to attend Rust University, a
high school and industrial school for former slaves established
in Holly Springs in 1866, and to continue study at Fisk University.
Her earliest employment, at 25 years old, was in the teaching
field in Memphis.
During this time, she also landed a part time editorship in
a small black newspaper in the same city. Ida B. Wells moved on
to become the first black female journalist. In 1892 she became
part-owner of The Memphis Free Speech. On March 9, 1892 of that
year she printed an article that denounced the lynching of three
of her friends, prominent black businessmen, who were accused
of raping three white women. This incident stemmed from the men
opening a grocery store across the street from a white owned grocery
store. Her article angered many Memphis whites and she was forced
out of town. The offices of The Memphis Free Speech were destroyed
by an angry mob. This event launched her lifelong career in the
U.S. and Europe as an anti-lynching crusader and pioneering journalist.
In 1910 she helped co- found the NAACP She served at some of the
leading papers of her era including The New York Age, The Chicago
Defender, and Chicago's The Conservator, a paper jointly owned
by her husband, Ferdinand Barnett. A crusader for women's rights,
she organized the first suffrage club among black women and the
Ida B. Wells Women's Club, which established Chicago's first kindergarten
in a black neighborhood.
She died of uremia on March 25, 1931.
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Abolitionist, journalist and orator; father of the modern civil
Douglass was born a slave in Tuckahoe, Maryland. Much of his
time was spent with his grandmother and aunt. The only information
he had of his father, was that he was a white man. At the age
of 8, he was sent to be a houseboy in Baltimore for a ship carpenter.
This is where he learned to read and heard his first abolitionist
speakers. "Going to live at Baltimore," Douglass would later say,
"laid the foundation, and opened the gateway, to all my subsequent
prosperity." He escaped to New Bedford, Massachussetts in 1836.
In 1841 he began a career as an abolitionist after giving a rousing,
impromptu speech at an antislavery convention in Nantucket, Massachussetts.
He used his oratorical skills in the ensuing years to lecture
in the northern states against slavery. He also helped slaves
escape to the North while working with the Underground Railroad.
Despite apprehensions that the information might endanger his
freedom, Douglass published his auto- biography, Narrative of
the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written By
Himself. The year was 1845.
Three years later, after a speaking tour of England, Ireland,
and Scotland, Douglass published the first issue of the abolitionist
paper The North Star, a four-page weekly, out of Rochester, New
York. Douglass developed this weekly into the most influential
black antislavery paper published during the antebellum era. It
was used to not only denounce slavery, but to fight for the emancipation
of women and other oppressed groups. Its motto was "Right is of
no Sex - Truth is of no Color-God is the Father of us all, and
we are all brethren." It was widely circulated to more than 4,000
readers in the United States, Europe, and the West Indies. In
June 1851 the paper merged with the Liberty Party Paper of Syracuse,
NY and was renamed Frederick Douglass' Paper. Douglass devoted
the next three years to publishing an abolitionist magazine called
Douglass' Monthly. In 1870 he assumed control of the New Era,
a weekly established in Washington, D.C. to serve former slaves.
He renamed it The New National Era, and published it until it
shut down in 1874.
Douglass, conferred with Abraham Lincoln several times during
the Civil War (1861-65) about the freedom of slaves. He also served
as U.S. marshal for the District of Columbia (1877-81), and U.S.
minister of Haiti (1889-91). He wrote two expanded versions of
his autobiography--My Bondage and My Freedom (1855) and Life and
Times of Frederick Douglass (1881).
Douglass died in Washington, D.C. on February 20, 1895.
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Writer, sociologist and cofounder of the NAACP.
W.E.B. DuBois was born in 1868 in Great Barrington, Massachussetts,
the same year Congress guaranteed black male suffrage. He attended
Fisk and Harvard Universities, and studied two years at the University
of Berlin. In 1895 he became the first African American to be
awarded a Ph.D. from Harvard. Between 1897 and 1910 he taught
economics and history at Atlanta University. DuBois founded the
Niagara Movement -- a group of African-American leaders committed
to an active struggle for racial equality.
DuBois was a founder of the National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People (NAACP) and edited its journal, Crisis, for
A brilliant writer and speaker, DuBois was the outstanding African-American
intellectual of his time. His The Philadelphia Negro (1899) was
the first sociological study of African-Americans. In The Souls
of Black Folk (1903), DuBois took a forceful stand against Booker
T. Washington's policy of accommodation, calling instead for "ceaseless
agitation and insistent demand for equality," and the "use of
force of every sort: moral suasion, propaganda, and where possible
- even physical resistance."
In 1934, he resigned from his position at the NAACP, resumed
his teaching career at Atlanta University, and became the editor
of the university's quarterly, Phylon from 1940- 1944. He returned
to the staff of the NAACP in 1944, this time, as the director
of the department of social research. Throughout his career, he
contributed writings to many leading black newspapers including
The Pittsburgh Courier, Chicago Defender, and The Afro-American.
DuBois's brilliant prediction at the beginning of this century
that "The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the
color line" is an example of the timeless quality of his work.
In his later years, he became interested in the issues of nuclear
disarmament and world peace. He joined the Communist party in
1961, emigrated to and became a citizen of Ghana, where he died
on August 27, 1963.
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