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Return to Self-Reliance
August 13, 1997 | Wall Street Journal | Jason L. Riley

A sad truth of late-20th-century black history is the lack of emphasis black leaders have placed on economic independence, opting instead to funnel resources toward integrating predominantly white institutions, be they political, corporate or educational. Such was not always the thinking; indeed, blacks left bondage with a very different mind-set.

"When you think back to the situation right after the Emancipation Proclamation, African-Americans did a couple things coming right out of slavery," Mr. Price said recently in an interview. "They started up colleges and they started up businesses, like independent farms and burial societies that led to the creation of insurance companies. And as black folks moved into the cities, they started everything that came with living there--barber shops, grocery stores, hotels."

Part of the reason blacks were able to do these things despite the racial barriers of Reconstruction and, later, Jim Crow, was the guidance and support of individuals such as Booker T. Washington. The pre-eminent black leader of the late 1800s and early 1900s, Washington was a shrewd self-help advocate and educator, and a relentless promoter of black economic independence. In 1901, the black novelist Pauline Hopkins called him "probably the most talked of Afro-American in the civilized world today."

A famous William Johnson painting of Washington shows the former slave addressing a class full of attentive black children. The blackboard behind him depicts a plow, a shovel, books and writing instruments--symbolizing the "tools" Washington realized were essential to the postslavery progress of his race. Demonstrating a keen understanding of the central role money and wealth accumulation play in advancing a people, Washington said: "No race that has anything to contribute to the markets of the world is long in any degree ostracized."
Jason_Riley  African-Americans  conservatism  Booker_T._Washington  Emancipation  capital_formation  capital_accumulation  self-help  civil_rights  education  self-reliance  Jim_Crow  economic_empowerment  generational_wealth  institutions  desegregation  history  Reconstruction  leaders 
september 2012 by jerryking
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