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Washington's Fight for Black Rights Revealed

It is impossible to know what would have happened differently in the history of the legal, social, economic and political liberation of blacks in the United States if all black leaders had been as radical as DuBois, for example. We might be critical of Washington for being too moderate or too conservative as a black spokesperson, but we must at least grant that he had a legitimate position which he took sincerely and after much thought. His position seems to be the philosophical forerunner to the position of Martin Luther King, Jr., for example, in the later context of the conflict between the moderate King and the more radical leaders of the black power movement.

Rose is accurate, in any case, in saying that our most honest response to the "black protagonists" of the Reconstruction period is "ambivalent" (Rose 111). We might not agree with one or the other as too conservative or too radical, but their various positions are at least within reason and call for our sympathy at the very least.

Washington's position in this speech and subsequent self-analysis, from Up From Slavery, whether we agree with it or not, clearly displays intricacy, subtlety, and variety of thought and rhetorical tactics. His speech and his analysis for that reason are indicative of far more than a merely moderate, or conservative, or "deferential" black leader's position. It is this observer's view that Washington is a far more wily and wise leader than his critics have realized.

Washington declares that as he rose to speak "the thing that was uppermost in my mind was the desire to say something that would cement the friendship of the races and bring about hearty cooperation between them" (Washington 604). We can fairly glean from this that Washington was not trying to win short-term gains for blacks at the expense of long-term costs, namely any aggravation of relations between the races. He was aiming at bringing about the long-term cooperation of the r...

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Washington's Fight for Black Rights Revealed. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 14:45, August 19, 2017, from
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