W. E. B. Du Bois

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What was the "talented tenth" according to W.E.B Du Bois?

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According to W. E. B. Dubois, a talented tenth of black men should receive a classical education and become leaders in their race.

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Written in 1903, "The Talented Tenth" was an essay by African-American author and civil rights activist W. E. B. Dubois. Although the term originated in 1896 by members of the American Baptist Missionary Home Society, Dubois used the term to describe his expectation that one in ten black men would become the leaders...

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of their race. Dubois believed that it was important for black men to receive a classical education and involve themselves in social issues--to become intellectuals in order to lead their race. This was in opposition to many other white liberal thinkers, as well as black leader Booker T. Washington, who believed that black men should be trained through industrial education. According to Dubois,

Men we shall have only as we make manhood the object of the work of the schools — intelligence, broad sympathy, knowledge of the world that was and is, and of the relation of men to it — this is the curriculum of that Higher Education which must underlie true life. On this foundation we may build bread winning, skill of hand and quickness of brain, with never a fear lest the child and man mistake the means of living for the object of life.

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According to WEB Dubois, what is the talented tenth?

One of DuBois's major ideas was that black people needed to help themselves get out of poverty and subservience to whites.  They could not simply rely on the help of whites to advance themselves.

DuBois thought that a major way to accomplish this would be to create a group of educated blacks who could lead their people to equality.  He called this group the talented tenth.  He meant that the top ten percent of the black population should be given a really good classical education so that they could become the leaders of black America.

In the following quote, you can see that DuBois is arguing that the "best" blacks will be able to lead their people as I have said:

The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men. The problem of education, then, among Negroes must first of all deal with the Talented Tenth; it is the problem of developing the Best of this race that they may guide the Mass away from the contamination and death of the Worst, in their own and other races.

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