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The Talented Tenth

The term “The Talented Tenth” refers to a concept developed by African American intellectual and civil rights leader W.E.B. Du Bois. He popularized the term in an essay titled “The Talented Tenth,” which was published in 1903 as part of his book “The Negro Problem.”

In his essay, Du Bois argued that within the African American community, there existed a group of individuals who possessed exceptional talent, education, and leadership qualities. He believed that these individuals had a responsibility to uplift and lead the broader black community in the pursuit of social progress and equality.

Du Bois advocated for investing in the education and development of this select group, whom he referred to as the “Talented Tenth.” He believed that by providing them with opportunities for higher education and cultivating their intellectual and leadership abilities, they would become agents of change and help advance the rights and well-being of African Americans as a whole.

Du Bois saw the Talented Tenth as a counterpoint to Booker T. Washington’s philosophy of industrial education and economic self-sufficiency for African Americans. While Washington emphasized vocational training and economic progress as a means of racial advancement, Du Bois emphasized the importance of higher education, intellectual pursuits, and social activism.

The concept of the Talented Tenth was influential during the early 20th century and became a rallying cry for African American intellectuals and activists. It emphasized the importance of education, leadership, and collective action in the struggle for racial equality. The idea that a small group of exceptional individuals could uplift the entire community resonated with many during a time of widespread racial discrimination and inequality.

While the concept of the Talented Tenth has been subject to criticism and debate over the years, it remains significant as a historical and sociopolitical concept within African American intellectual thought. It reflects the aspirations for education, leadership, and social progress within the African American community and continues to inform discussions on strategies for achieving racial equality and empowerment.

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