“It seems to me,” said Booker T.,
“That all you folks have missed the boat
Who shout about the right to vote,
And spend vain days and sleepless nights
In uproar over civil rights.
Just keep your mouth shut, do not grouse,
But work, and save, and buy a house.”
“I don't agree,” said W.E.B.,
“For what can property avail
If dignity and justice fail.
Unless you help to make the laws,
They’ll steal your house with a trumped-up clause.
A rope's as tight, a fire as hot,
No matter how much cash you’ve got.
Speak soft, and try your little plan,
But as for me, I’ll be a man”
“It seems to me,” said Booker T.–
“I don't agree,”
Dudley Randall, “Booker T. and W. E. B.”
The emergence of the New Negro movement was entangled in powerful dynamics and paradigms involving race, gender, and sexuality that defined Jim Crow America. The opening chapter presents these ideological constructs, and the following chapters explore how they were echoed and rewritten in New Negro discourse. As I have indicated, the main focus is the debate between Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois, which has shaped modern African American discourse in general and the New Negro Renaissance in particular. Both participants of the dispute are numerously referred to in the discussions of the politics and rhetoric of the movement. Alain Locke chooses to include the two principal texts of the debate, The Souls of Black Folk and Up from Slavery, in his study of black self-expression in the 1920s, even though they considerably predate the Roaring Twenties decade, “because within this period in which we are interested they have established themselves as Negro classics and come in to the prime of their influence.”