16-08h - XVI. Emergence of the New Negro, 1895-1928...

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XVI. Emergence of the “New Negro”, 1895-1928 Overview As the nineteenth century drew to a close and the twentieth century opened, the United States of America was becoming a major world power. As African Americans watched their nation rise to world influence, they debated among themselves over what strategies to follow. These strategies can be conveniently grouped into three major categories: accommodation, agitation, and migration. It was during this period that African Americans really became an urbanized people. In 1910 a majority of African Americans still lived in rural areas, but by 1930 a majority was living in cities and towns. African American lifestyles and culture adapted to the new urban environment. No longer was life regulated by nature, but rather by the routine of business and industry. Family and church ties were weakened, and other institutions came to play a more prominent role in peoples’ lives. As traditional ties were weakened, life became more impersonal and lonely. But in the big cities, especially those of the North, there was more personal freedom, less overt racism, and more personal dignity. And there was greater protection of civil rights. At the same time, greater opportunities brought greater risks. There were more challenges to psychological and social stability, and more of a chance to fall into socially destructive behavior such as crime, vice, and family violence. This period witnessed a much greater visibility for people of African ancestry in the United States. African Americans re-emerged onto the political scene, but this time in the big cities of the North. African American intellectual leaders consciously sought to celebrate and define their culture, and popular leaders sought to establish Black self respect and independence from Euro American institutions. Popular musicians articulated the life experiences of Black patrons in the nightclubs which were a major part of the urban social scene. After the Compromise of 1876, many Northerners assumed that African Americans would no longer be a concern for them, and that race relations were strictly a Southern problem. But after a series of violent race riots during the first two decades of the Twentieth Century, it became clear to many White Americans that they were still faced with, as they called it at the time, the “Negro Problem.”
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From an African American perspective, the problem was White people who were unable to acknowledge the emergence of the “New Negro”, a person with more self-respect, more political power, and a louder voice. The Decline of Booker T. Washington and Rise of “The New Negro” The philosophy of accommodation was most clearly expressed by Booker T. Washington. Demanding equal rights, he believed, had not worked, and had only resulted in worsening the treatment of blacks by southern whites. It was clear to him that the federal government was not going to enforce civil rights, and so Black people would have to earn the respect of the White people of the South. The way
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16-08h - XVI. Emergence of the New Negro, 1895-1928...

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