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W.E.B. DuBois Defines "The Talented Tenth"

At the beginning of the twentieth century, as now, access to quality public education was uneven, and the problem disproportionately impacted African-American children. W.E.B. DuBois, himself highly educated, was sharply critical of Booker T. Washington's model of technical and industrial education for African Americans. DuBois argued that political and social equality would not happen without intellectual equality, achieved through a traditional academic curriculum.

The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men. The problem of education, then, among Negroes must first of all deal with the Talented Tenth; it is the problem of developing the best of this race that they may guide the mass away from the contamination and death of the worst...  If we make money the object of man-training, we shall develop money-makers but not necessarily men; if we make technical skill the object of education, we may possess artisans but not, in nature, men.  Men we shall have only as we make manhood the object of the work in the schools--intelligence, broad sympathy, knowledge of the world that was and is, and of the relation of men to it--this is the curriculum of that higher education which must underlie true life.  

Source | Booker T. Washington, et al., The Negro Problem: a series of articles by representative American Negroes of today, New York: James Pott and Company, 1903
Creator | W.E.B. DuBois
Item Type | Article/Essay
Cite This document | W.E.B. DuBois, “W.E.B. DuBois Defines "The Talented Tenth",” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed February 23, 2024,

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