The Negro has become a Neighbor
WEB DuBois s Souls of Black folk harbors the authors beliefs and ideas drawn from Reconstruction and the social contempt that faced the black race. His opinions of reconstruction and the steps needed to advance the black race into harvest wonderful, a world without a color-line are discussed in the reading below (iii).
DuBois s views on the Freedmen s Bureau show he welcomed the advancements and goals that were attained by the Bureau, but also greatly frowned on the mishandling of power and money within the organization. He applauded the effort and progress that the bureau obtained. He noted that while it wasn t perfect, the organization was a vast labor bureau on the whole successful beyond the dreams of thoughtful men” (18). According to DuBois, The greatest success of the Freedmen s Bureau lay in the planting of the free school among Negroes, and the idea of free elementary education among all classes in the South. (20) That feat was the silver lining in the dark cloud of the bureau s judicial functions, which DuBois calls the most perplexing and least successful . (21)
DuBois gives the bureau a final compliment which sums up his perception of the organization and the deeds performed. While it was easy to put blame on the bureau for most of the problems concerning the advancement of the black race, DuBois says that to do so would be neither sensible or just and the work accomplished was not undeserving commendation . (21) He does go on to add that the Negro is not free and is still weighed down by the social problem of prejudice, wrongs that the Bureau could not fix because it was unable to.(24)
DuBois placed the advancement of the black race in American society into steps. These steps differed from those of Booker T. Washington, who claimed that the way to survive is through submission. Meekness was achieved chiefly by giving up political power, the fight for civil rights, and the chance for higher education of the Negro youth (30). DuBois states that these guidelines contributed to the disenfranchisement of the Negro, the legal creation of a distinct status of civil inferiority for the Negro, and the steady withdrawal of aid from institutions for the higher training of the Negro. (31)
DuBois s steps towards improving the position of the black race in American society are gathered around the three main types of action and communication between whites and blacks. These are physical proximity, economical relations, and political relations (100).
Physical proximity between the two races rarely offers the chance meeting of the best of blacks with the best of whites. More often, the worst of the white class mingled with the black class and further forged the idea of oppression. (101)
Economic relations between the classes are also severely stressed. The black slave has been taught to be just that, a slave. They are willing and good-natured, but not self-reliant, provident, or careful (102). DuBois claims for the South to push economic development to the edge, the black laborer needs personal guidance, group leadership of men with hearts in their bosoms, to train them with foresight, carefulness, and honesty. (102) Finally, there must be acceptance towards the idea of racial prejudice in the South is a fact, one that can only be wiped out by time and using the powers available to the black race (104).
DuBois states the greatest of these powers is the power of the ballot , which concerns the third interaction between the two races, the political movement. (104) He emplores the value of voting and keeping an active interest in government and politics so as not too be left helpless or left to the exploitation and debauchment of the worst (106).
While any advancement of a race during a time of great oppression and prejudice will be seen as forward progress and goon in nature, DuBois grasps the idea that while Reconstruction and the Freedman s Bureau were a large help to the black race and its advancement in the South, the latter was guided as a temporary solution to the plight of the Negro. (24) Only by following the steps outlined and gaining an understanding of what they must achieve to lift their kinsmen above bigotry could the Negro fully emancipate himself and wander free among the people that had oppressed his kind for so many generations.