The decade after the Civil War ushered in the Era of Reconstruction (Links to an external site.)
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in the U.S. During this period, the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution was passed, abolishing slavery; additionally, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments were passed, providing citizenship and civil and voting rights to the new Black freedmen of the South. During the era of what is known as Radical Reconstruction (because it was a movement of Radical Republicans), Black men not only had the right to vote, they could also hold legislative office, and, in fact, many were elected to Congress as well as to state legislators.
However, the Southern White power structure revolted against the new policies of Radical Reconstruction, and within a year a reactionary period in the South began that saw the rise of Jim Crow segregation as well as the Ku Klux Klan violently preventing Blacks from exercising their civil rights, including the right to vote or hold office.
It was in this context that, by the end of the 19th century, while American Literary Realism was reaching its peak, that two prominent voices moved forward a discussion of how African Americans should achieve what became known as "racial uplift" or, sometimes, "the race problem." Although Booker T. Washington proposed a philosophy of patience and acceptance of Blacks' position in society, W.E.B. DuBois advocated for immediate access to higher education and skilled professions, in short, to equal opportunities under the law.
By the time of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, a flourishing of African American arts inspired by the Great Migrations from the South to northern cities as many Black men and women fled violence and lynchings in the South, the philosophical dispute between Washington and DuBois had still not been resolved. Instead, it moved from a rural-urban or South-North question to one that characterized racial politics nationwide. In this online discussion, you will compare and contrast Washington's "Atlanta Compromise Speech" with DuBois' "Of Our Spiritual Striving," and select one as a lens through which to read the poems for this week.
Your post should be a minimum of 500 words and a maximum of 700 words, it should be thoughtful, and it should use a coherent paragraph organization. After you post your discussion, read and reply to two other classmates' posts.
- First, summarize both Washington's speech and DuBois' essay, using quotations from the text to support your interpretation.
- Then, compare and contrast the arguments each makes, using passages from the text to support your analysis.
- Next, select EITHER Washington's speech OR DuBois' essay to use as a lens through which to read one of the poems (of your choice) for this week.
- Finally, select the alternate text to read one other poem. For instance, if you have read "I, Too" through a DuBoisian lens, then you may read "I Sit and Sew" or "Heritage" through a Washingtonian lens here.