Philosophies Of James Weldon Washington And The Progressive Era

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Historic recurrence is a philosophy often looked at as near fact. Many people believe that history strictly repeats itself, however this is not entirely true. Rather than history directly repeating itself, it is more accurate to say that a recurrence of patterns is commonplace throughout human history. This phenomenon of historic recurrence can be seen on both large and small scales, and both are quite numerous. One in particular that stands out is the historic recurrence between philosophies of two famous African American men who lived in the United States: educator Booker T. Washington and poet James Weldon Johnson. The two men were born only 15 years apart (with Washington being the older of the two), and in fact had met while Johnson was…show more content…
Washington and the Progressive Era, which was a movement in the United States that lasted from 1890 to around 1910. It reflected worries that reformers had about the state of society and social disorder as well as other political and social issues (Divine 628). Common issues looked at during the Progressive Era included: living conditions in cities, Prohibition, the role of the U.S. Government in society, and the rights of African Americans. The issue over the rights of African Americans in particular was one that allowed Booker T. Washington to rise to the forefront of the issue. During the Progressive Era, there were many different opinions as to how exactly African Americans should attempt to progress towards equal Civil Rights. While some activists pushed for protest, Washington took a different approach: gradualism. Washington felt that African Americans should attempt to earn their way into society by showing whites that they can own property and be an equal part of society. One of Washington’s first examples of his gradualist mindset can be seen in the Atlanta Compromise, a speech that Washington delivered at an international exposition in Atlanta, Georgia in 1895. In the Atlanta Compromise, Washington acknowledged the fact that whites dominated the American society. However, he also called for slow progression towards African American civil rights through self-improvement and the…show more content…
After graduating from a preparatory school in Atlanta, Georgia in 1894, Johnson was even offered a scholarship to Harvard University medical school (Wisner-Broyles 126). However, he turned the offer down and decided to become the principal of Stanton Grammar School, which he attended as a child. As the principal of Stanton Grammar School, Johnson made it a priority of his to provide a full high school education for young African Americans (Reisman 972). While being an active part of Stanton School, Johnson also took the opportunity to improve his skills in songwriting and poetry. One of his most early culminations of this work came in 1913, when he published his poem “Fifty Years” as a commemoration of the 50 year anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. The poem itself has an uplifting attitude, where Johnson comments on the positive impact that the Emancipation Proclamation had on the African American community and how it allowed them to become members of society rather than slaves. Johnson says in the first four lines of the poem, “O brothers mine, to-day we stand / Where half a century sweeps our ken, / Since God, through Lincoln’s ready hand, / Struck off our bonds and made us men” (American Verse Project). This introduction to the poem allows readers to recognize the elation in Johnson’s tone and it introduces readers to the
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