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From Africa and Back: An Analysis of African-American Views

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  1. On African-American Education

            Booker Taliaferro Washington, born in 1856, was known as a great educator and leader of the African-American community.  Formerly a slave, he gained an education and ultimately became the first leader of a black teachers’ college—now Tuskegee University in Alabama—where he would culminate his life-long service.  He believed in providing young black boys with skills like masonry and carpentry, which would allow them to become productive members of society and be accepted by white Americans.  Responsibility and reliability were Washington’s ideals towards gaining full civil rights as American citizens (Spartacus Educational, 2008).

On the other hand, the militant Ida Bell Wells, born in 1862, fought for African-American and women’s rights, and against lynchings.  She was originally a teacher in Memphis, until her criticism of the Memphis Board of Education’s under-funding of African-American schools caused her to lose her job.  Wells expressed her disagreement over Washington’s thrust for industrial education, citing that the aspirations of blacks cannot be contained within the limited parameters of such a system (Spartacus Educational, 2008).  An evaluation of the ideologies of the two black leaders reveals a more sound and efficient solution in Ida Wells’ aggressive stance, since the passive method promoted by Washington further emphasizes the African-American stereotype of being relegated to manual labor.

  1. On Returning to Africa

            Because of problems met by newly-freed black slaves in the early 1800s, including hostility coming from whites, the Back to Africa movement was introduced by the American Colonization Society, composed mostly of philanthropists and abolitionists, but was the original idea of Paul Cuffee, a wealthy African-American.  By 1820, blacks started returning to Africa, and eventually settled in Liberia in 1847.  However, the movement declined in the late 1800s as the majority of blacks, assigned by the American Colonization Society to colonize the newly-founded Liberia, refused to return to a locale that no longer represented their cultural identity (Cumrin, 2007).


Cumrin, Timothy (2007).  “’Back to Africa?’ The Colonization Movement in Early

            America”.  Conner Prairie website, accessed 10 August 2008 at


Spartacus Educational (2008).  “Ida Wells”.  Spartacus Educational website, accessed on

            10 August 2008 at http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/FWWwells.htm

Spartacus Educational (2008).  “Booker Tafalierro”.  Spartacus Educational website,

            accessed on 10 August 2008 at


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