Documenting the American South Logo
Collections >> The Church in the Southern Black Community >> Document Menu >> Summary

Booker T. Washington, 1856-1915 and W. E. B. Du Bois (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963
The Negro in the South, His Economic Progress in Relation to His Moral and Religious Development; Being the William Levi Bull Lectures for the Year 1907.
Philadelphia: G. W. Jacobs, 1907.


This book contains four lectures given as part of an endowed Lectureship on Christian Sociology at Philadelphia Divinity School. The first two pieces are by Booker T. Washington; and the latter two are by W. E. B. Du Bois.

Washington's two lectures concern the economic development of African Americans both during and after slavery. In his first lecture, "The Economic Development of the Negro Race in Slavery,\" Washington claims that Africans had specific commercial qualities that made them especially desirable as slaves and allowed them to thrive even under the barbarism and injustice of slavery. Washington argues that the economic and industrial abilities that have allowed some former slaves to succeed in the commercial realm are a direct result of the training they received during slavery. Washington uses several personal examples from the Tuskeegee Institute to illustrate his argument.

In his second lecture, "The Economic Development of the Negro Race since its Emancipation, " Washington asserts that the most important task facing the country is to convince former slaves that labor is noble and desirable. He holds up the work at Tuskeegee as a successful example of this model, and shows how economic and industrial development improves both the moral and the religious life of African Americans. Again, Washington uses several personal stories to fully illustrate this idea.

Du Bois' two lectures treat the American South in more general terms. His first lecture, "The Economic Revolution in the South,\" is wide-ranging in its focus. One of his basic arguments is that the system of slavery fundamentally hindered the South in its industrial development--leaving an agriculture-based economy out of step with the world around it. Du Bois believes that the South will not be able to compete with the rest of the world unless the African American is fully integrated in the political life of the states. He decries what he calls the system of \"serfdom\" that replaced slavery, and offers as at least a partial remedy the prospect of black-owned business. He calls attention to the problem of white exploitation of poor whites, and predicts a time when both oppressed whites and oppressed blacks will demand full economic and political participation in the community.

His second lecture, "Religion in the South," shows in large part how southern white religion has been broadly unjust to slaves and former slaves and how in so doing it has betrayed its own hypocrisy. He offers several examples of religious slaves, and discusses the religious motivation behind some slave rebellions (notably the Denmark Vesey plot and Nat Turner's Rebellion). In the conclusion to this lecture, Du Bois levels harsh criticism against white Christians who forced blacks out of their congregations, yet deny African Americans access to the necessary training and guidance they need to form healthy churches of their own.

Christopher Hill

Document menu