Civil Rights Leaders: Mary Mcleod Bethune, W.E.B DuBois and Thomas Moss

The Civil War from 1861-1865 became a very monumental part in the history of America. A war which was initially fought to bring the South back in unity with the North, sought to a different agenda. Being that the South’s economy relied so heavy on the coerced labor of African slaves, Lincoln wanted to abolish slavery to simply weaken the South. Even being second class citizens, there were Africans who served in the civil war; as a result, Africans were expecting equal rights when they finished serving as this war had a boat-load of casualties.

Instead of being complacent and accepting oppression, there were African leaders that defy the odds that were against them. William Edward Burghardt DuBois was one of the many African scholars that helped to liberate the mind of people of color. DuBois was the first person of color to graduate from the prestigious ivy league of Harvard University receiving his Ph.D. Much of DuBois’ studies had an emphasis on, “black self-help and self reconcillence” (Azevedo 24).

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This helped him go on to be one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). This is a group that is around to fight for the rights of African Americans to enforce equality with their white counterparts. His legacy continues to live on even to this day in the African American community as the NAACP carries out the goals that he put forth. Even more monumental, is Dubois’ idea of the “talented tenth” (Azevedo 131).

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The idea behind this was to have a group of the most successful African Americans to take monetary responsibility and educational leadership for other African Americans to prosper (Azevedo 131). The power behind this is truly what makes this significant. Educating and investing in other African Americans certainly can strengthen the community. This keeps a cycle of successful African American men and women who give back to the community; an example is being set as other people of color see that they can prosper because there are people that look like them defying societal standards. There lies some solidarity in the ideas of Booker Taliaferro Washington. Washington responded to the desperate needs of the African American community, in which one of them being literacy of people of color in the south. There was a point where “acquiring literacy for southern blacks remained a serious challenge, and historically black colleges and universities, then as now, have served a vital role” (Azevedo 129). Correspondingly, in 1881 Washington founded Tuskegee Institute which was one of the first HBCUs. He had a budget of $2000 to further develop the school. Washington stressed industrial training with his students. Many of the buildings that the university was built by students that he led which illustrates the success of his leadership.

Most significantly, he told African Americans to “cast down your bucket where you are, and work to build the south” (Azevedo 130). This is to make people of color make best with what’s do. In other words, make the best of a situation no matter the circumstances against you. Thirdly, women like such as Ida B. Wells brought to light the horrors that African Americans had to face. Wells is most known for journalism which was utilized to “publicize the atrocities committed primarily against black men” (Azevedo 130). She wrote about one of the most known lynchings against Thomas Moss who was a businessman that worked with her. A key point she pulled from this murder was that white people lynching African was a sign of white control. These lynchings were a way to enhance white superiority as many times there were not any consequences for these lynchings. A common pattern she noticed about these lynchings was that they were very strategic. Whites wanted to suppress the social mobility of people of color as they killed very successful African entrepreneurs and leaders. This shows how whites were trying to dictate the lives of African Americans by clipping their true potential. Lastly, Mary Bethune similarly to Wells showed dedication to improving gender relations. Bethune was one of many of the black women who were very passionate in the National Black Women’s Club Movement. This was a movement in place to empower women of color so they can be much more of what society expects of them. This movement is extremely important for the African American community as they could potentially also breed women who could economically support themselves.

Slavery was an what we know an extreme form of harsh coerced labor. Focusing on the enslavement of Africans by Europeans, it represents an obvious dark period in global history. Europeans were known to make slavery an institution that prefers a specific race for harsh and dehumanizing labor. Without a doubt, the inhumane treatment of Africans got the eye of those observing the experience of the slave. It came to a time in history that the slave experience essentially became characterized by the “dehumanization and cruel treatment” (Azevedo 152). Also, slaves tried to free themselves at any means. The story of Haiti’s independence spread around the world which gave many other Africans hope they could also revolt to get gain freedom. The Haitian Revolution Toussaint L’Ouverture displayed that Africans were willing to go to any means to capture their freedom. Moreover, in Jamaica, the Maroons “defied the system by establishing run-away societies of their own” (Azevedo, 153). The relentless pursuit of freedom from such a harsh system of labor played a large role in ending slavery in the Caribbean.

Even after Africa was weakened by colonization, many leaders arose from such conditions. Africa had been used for resources by other foreign powers; this exploitation of Africa played a huge part in hurting the continent’s development. Much of Africa had their history and value taken away from them which is why the period of colonization put any parts of Africa behind the world in terms of advancement. Starting with Kwame Nkrumah was a very important leader in Ghana. He was the first prime minister and president of Ghana; Nkrumah formed the “Convention People’s Party” (Azevedo 167). In his time he argued for the unification and independence of South Africa. He, therefore, gave a voice to blacks as they were given the right to vote in Africa. Secondly, Jomo Kenyatta in 1960 organized the “Kenya National Union” (Azevedo 167). He was able to contribute to the constitution of Kenya as independence was gained just three years later where he became the prime minister. Lastly, Julius Nyerere of Tanganyika took a trip to the United Nations where he “openly agitated for political independence” (Azevedo 168). He was able to achieve the British withdrawal from Tanganyika becoming a successor of the league. A common goal between Nkrumah, Kenyatta, and Nyerere was to get independence from colonial powers. This is one of the many way Africans could see more rights given as finally their own people held power

Pan Africanist argue for the unity of all people that are of African descent. This is a group that pushes to unify all people of African decent minus any differences. Chief Alfred Sam who is from the Gold Coast in West Africa was very big of emigration. Chief Sam was “forming emigration clubs and selling share stock in his emigration company, the Akim Trading Company. He managed to get a great amount of support from African American Oklahoma communities. Then there is Marcus Garvey, who also believed in the return to Africa. Garvey founded the “Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League in Jamaica” (Azevedo 177). In this, he believed a return to the motherland was essential for the liberation of Africans and this program was basically known as Garveyism. Ultimately, C.L.R James was a very prominent writer against colonization. He formed “International African Friends of Abyssinia” (Azevedo 179). These three Pan Africanist leaders heavily valued the return to Africa so Africans could create their own nation to prosper. This meant ignoring the differences and uniting all Africans around the world.

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Civil Rights Leaders: Mary Mcleod Bethune, W.E.B DuBois and Thomas Moss. (2022, Jan 14). Retrieved from

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