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, in their own and other races. –W.E.B. DuBois, September 1903 [Full text]
“The Talented Tenth” is the phenomenon of one out of ten black people who is influential in the world, through methods such as education, artistic talent, musical talent, athletics, writing books, or becoming directly involved in social change.
DuBois is talking about the 10% of the race who he charged with uplifting the race by providing morally sound, socially conscious, and unselfish leadership to Blacks in the post-Reconstruction era. Interestingly enough, 1948, Dubois recanted this claim, acknowledging that he didn’t realize the extent to which egotism, self-interest, and self-righteousness would prevent the Talented Tenth from serving its intended purpose. I think he would recant even further if he were alive in 2008.
Do you think that there is a “Talented Tenth” in Black America today? Who is the “Talented Tenth” of today? Are they willing to accept DuBois’ challenge in this era.