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"For the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line." What did...

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ayshab90 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 7, 2009 at 12:01 PM via web

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"For the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line." What did Du Bois actually mean by this?

On Page number 41.

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted September 7, 2009 at 12:36 PM (Answer #1)

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This is a quotation from W.E.B. DuBois.  It is best for you to identify the author of a quotation.  A page number does not help without a book title, and sometimes does not help even when we have a book title, since every edition will have different pagination. 

After the Civil War, slaves were supposed to be free. But the Southern states enacted laws, called "Jim Crow" laws, that made it nearly impossible for African-Americans to enjoy the privileges of white Americans.  Similarly, people of Asian race were routinely discriminated against in the United States, as were Native Americans.  As DuBois saw it from his perspective at the beginning of the twentieth century, the biggest problem that the United States would have in the new century would be how to address and resolve the inequalities between white Americans and those of other races and color.  The "color line" that he refers to is the line of race that separated people of color from those who were white, a line that kept people of color from being treated equally in education, in employment, and in public accommodations such as buses, restaurants, water fountains, and hotels. 

As things stood when DuBois made this statement, there was a disconnect between the Constitution, which guaranteed life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans and the abysmal failure of that guarantee for minorities.  Now that we have completed the twentieth century and can look back, it is clear that much of the century was devoted to dealing with this problem. 

I am not sure whether this will be a central problem in this century.  Certainly, there are now laws that make discrimination unlawful, but only time will tell if this is a problem we have really conquered. 

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