| W. E. B. Du Bouis and Marcus Garvey approached the civil rights movement of their time with almost perfectly opposing strategies. W. E. B. Du Bois wanted black people to be accepted into American society and he believed that the intellectual elite of the black community should lead them in this direction. Marcus Garvey tried to lead the masses of black people towards black purity of race and culture through black nationalism.
Du Bois claimed that black Americans were made up of two parts - the black part and the American part. In his book, The Souls of Black Folk, he wrote, "One ever feels his two-ness - an American, a Negro, two souls, two thoughts, two unrecoiled strivings, two warring ideas in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder" (White 52). But, "In this merging he wishes neither of the old selves to be lost" (White 52). This internal dichotomy is shown often in Du Bois' writings. He was both an integrationist and an advocate of a form of voluntary segregation. He thought that the Negro race "could only advance through its own self help and the assistance by whites of good will" (White 53). He thought that the "Talented Tenth," the intellectual elite of the black community, should inspire and lead their people while seeking aid and stimulation from white people. But, even though he thought that it was good to seek this aid from white people he also made "a call for the black community to maintain a seperate racial identity" (White 54). He was a passionate proponent of black pride and thought that black Americans held gifts to humanity, in the form of art, music, humor, and folk tales that had yet to be appreciated.
Whereas Du Bois was an intellectual that depended on the leadership of the Talented Tenth and the aid of white people, Marcus Garvey was a charismatic leader of masses who advocated complete racial purity and seperatism. "The liberation of Africa from European colonial rule, and the repatriation there of the 'best' Afro-Americans...appear as constant - although not always clearly expressed - themes in Garvey's writings and speeches" (White 93). The most important part of Garveyism, the philsophy that grew out of his writings and speeches, was the return of black Americans to Africa. This idea, however, often had a figurative or spiritual meaning.
Garveyism emphasized the importance of religion through the creation of the African Orthodox Church and Garvey's claims that, "Since white people have seen their own God through white spectacles, we have now started to see our God through our own spectacles" (White 92). Therefore, black people should visualize a black God and black Christ.
Garvey advocated economic self determination for black people. His "most spectacular undertaking" was the creation of an all-Negro steamship company. Although this project is often reputed to have been intended to be a way to transport black people to Africa to resettle, it was actually intended as a profitable commercial operation. It was meant to create justifiable racial pride by demonstrating black commercial and nautical skill.
Garvey had such strong seperatist and purity sentiments that he made some alliances with the Klu Klux Klan. As he put it, "Whilst the Klu Klux Klan desires to make America absolutely a white man's country, the UNIA desires to make Africa absolutely a black man's country" (White 88). The UNIA, which stood for Universal Negro Improvement and Conservation Association and Affrican Comunities League, was an organization headed by Garvey. The Negro World, a weekly propaganda newspaper published by Garvey, printed an eight point platform of the UNIA. All of the eight points had to do with black pride, race conciousness, world conciousness, and independence.
Du Bois and Garvey not only strongly disagreed with one another, but also disliked each other. They often cruelly made fun of the one another's physical appearence. Du Bois, however, did concede commendations for Garvey's eloquence and oration. According to John White, "There is no doubt that Garvey, more than any previous leader, stimulated racial pride and confidence among black Americans" (White 103). But, to Du Bois, Garvey's advocacy of racial seperation was inexcusable. Despite Du Bois' call for economic independence, he still felt that there should be positive relations between blacks and whites and he found Garvey's racial chauvinism unacceptable.
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White, John. Black Leadership in America. Longman: New York, 1985.
|A Comparison of W.E.B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey
by Ryan Cofrancesco