The Common Difference’s of Elitism Vs. Nationalism
The often fierce ideological exchanges between Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. Du Bois are interesting, not as much because of the eloquence of their expression, as because of the fact that although outwardly contradictory, these ideologies were often unified at their foundation. This unity was not simply in terms of the broad and obvious intent to better the conditions of “black folk”, it was in terms of the very details that defined the trajectory and means of the advancement of blacks in America and all over the world. It is clear that the seeming ideological disunity between the Garvey and Du Bois perspectives only masked the commonalities that underpinned each of their approaches to advancing the condition of blacks, as there are numerous examples illustrating this fact. Both Garvey and Du Bois identified political, educational, and economic empowerment as pillars of their ideologies, and key strategies for improving the conditions of blacks, and yet, this point of ideological convergence was overshadowed by Du Bois’ disdain for Garvey’s (and Book T. Washington’s) emphasis on economic pursuits over educational and intellectual development. In a similar vein, while Garvey and Du Bois shared an allegiance to the Negro race as a global entity, Garvey was critical Du Bois’ willingness to identify with America in a patriotic fashion. Perhaps the most notable example of this phenomenon, however, is in Du Bois’ and Garvey’s shared view that blacks needed to look inwards to regroup and rebuild amongst their own before being asked to compete in with whites in commerce and other arenas. Paradoxically, this common perspective, for Garvey necessitated a Zionist/Separatist movement, while for Du Bois it necessitated greater patriotism on the part of the American people, so that all Americans, blacks and whites alike, could enjoy equal rights as sons of a common “fatherland”. In truth, it was only on those details that came after the core ideologies, the intricacies of how the Du Bois and Garvey approaches would manifest in reality, that there were ideological differences. With this argument as its basis, this paper will compare and contrast the ideologies W.E.B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey. Both Garvey and Du Bois believed firmly that educational, economic, and political empowerment would be essential to bringing about social change for blacks. The centrality of these themes to Garvey’s approach was evident in the Manifesto of Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association, which held as objectives: “To establish Universities, Colleges and Secondary Schools for the further education and culture of the boys and girls of the race…” and “…To promote a better taste for commerce and industry…” A Garvey Maxim which stated “…Every student of Political Science, every student of Economics knows, that the race can only be saved through a solid industrial foundation. That the race can only be saved through political independence. Take away industry from a race; take away political freedom from a race, and you have a group of slaves.” Interestingly, Du Bois echoed this position, even in his criticisms of Booker T. Washington who was Garvey’s ally and a man from whom Garvey sought advice and assistance for the activities of his movement. In an essay criticizing Washington, Du Bois poses the question: “ Is it possible, and probable, that nine millions of men can make effective progress in economic lines if they are deprived of political rights, made a servile caste, and allowed only the most meager chance for developing their exceptional men?” and to his own question he responded, “If history and reason give any distinct answer to these questions, it is an emphatic No.”
While Du Bois shared Garvey’s position that blacks needed economic, political, and educational empowerment to live truly free and complete lives, their ideologies split at the point where Garvey, following Washington’s...
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