Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 589
1. DuBois asserts that historical events and blacks’ progress in developing elementary and college-level curriculum for blacks didn’t always dovetail conveniently. Where did black educational institutions stand at the time of the Industrial Revolution? How did they have to adjust to respond to the demands of the period?
2. DuBois describes the geography and climate of the “Black Belt” region of Georgia as stark and oppressive. How did plantation owners, overseers, emancipated slaves, and others fare on the land based on DuBois’ tour?
3. Black farmers DuBois visits in Dougherty County were perpetually in debt at the turn of the century. What are at least three reasons why this happened?
4. Aside from living in debt, in what other ways did the black residents of Dougherty County continue to live in conditions that mimicked slavery?
5. How have blacks and whites consciously and unconsciously separated themselves along “the color-line”?
1. The rise of an educational system that could train black children and college students coincided with racist laws passed in the late nineteenth century and an Industrial Revolution that demanded schools of all kinds prepare students for new forms of labor. This coincidence made it easy for blacks and whites alike to see the Negro student as a laborer first and student second, but DuBois asserts that educational institutions needed to train blacks both as intellectuals and workers.
2. DuBois describes the land and climate as difficult, dry, and sprawling. He visited abandoned plantations and learned that many of their original owners moved and left the land in the care of racist overseers. He also met numerous black farmers who, though property owners or operators of their own farms, struggled with debt from loans for the land or equipment for farming. Many complained of debt or the falling price of cotton or of being cheated out of pay in handshake deals with local racists. In a sense, they were still slaves but within a legal system of capitalism.
3. Black farmers started out with no assets after emancipation, immediately forcing them into a disadvantaged position. Those that amassed assets usually entered into inequitable financial arrangements in which they paid in cotton for rent and basic necessities. These arrangements included “chattel mortgages” in which local merchants essentially became their overseers, taking their cotton for debt. In addition, farmers were forced to use cotton as a kind of currency, meaning they could not diversify their crops and raise more lucrative or personally useful products.
4. Many farm families continued to live in former slaves’ quarters, as if they were still slaves. They were not permitted to use official money (cotton was their currency), and they were rarely able to achieve savings or profits from their crops. In good years, they were discouraged from saving (which could have freed them from their debts). And the fact that they never seemed to get ahead, regardless of whether it was a good or bad year for cotton, meant that many of these farmers came to accept the fact that they could never get ahead—a state of mind that mimicked the hopelessness of slavery.
5. DuBois notes that blacks and whites establish specific physical boundaries between their two “sections of town” in any given city. They attend separate churches and schools, read separate media, and patronize separate stores. They have little reason to reach out to one another socially. Blacks lack the vote or legitimate political representation, even though they are taxed, and white politicians have little incentive to better reach out to them as either constituents or fellow citizens.
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