Tuesday, August 26, 2008


A hundred years ago, two African American gentleman with differing viewpoints spawned two different movements to achieve racial equality. They were both frequent visitors to Durham.

The two leaders, of course, were Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois. One argued for equality through economic development and the other through social change. From reports at the time, it seemed they didn’t always get along and people seemed to take sides on the issues. But one thing was clear: there was a tolerance of ideas, debate and public discourse evident then.

In Durham, at the dawn of the 1900’s a group of African American leaders appear to have fused a both/and approach adapting parts of both movements. It was then that Black Wall Street was spawned, the Sit-In Movement took root in the basements of Durham churches, and organizations like the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People were formed.

Sometimes it is hard to tell if that same tolerance for ideas or fusion of ideas still exists across the United States. I remember the puzzling and seemingly intolerant reaction to Dr. Shelby Steele’s The Content of Our Character and his more recent book, White Guilt. And similarly to Bill Cosby’s 2005 speech at Howard University.

I’m now reading a new book recommended by friend and colleague Bill Geist, written by one of his former Board members, Dr. John Yancy Odom. It is very insightful and full of useful ideas that I’ll leave for you to read for yourself.

But I wonder if his Saving Black America; An Economic Plan for Civil Rights will receive the same response as Dr. Steele’s books or if the inspiration of Presidential Candidate Barack Obama will lead us back to the positive and open debate about racial equality that Washington and Dubois had.


Anonymous said...

Reyn, thank you very much for (a) buying my book; (b) reading my book (c) applying contemporary thoughts to a key paradigm of Saving Black America.

I'm grateful for your critique and kind words. I am in the throes of completing another book on the same topic; I'll make sure to alert you upon its publication.


John Y. Odom

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking it in the spirit intended and being patient with my understanding of the issues.

I look forward to your next book Dr. Odom.