This book is a good read if you are new to the quest into understanding black Americans in a historical context and from an accredited source. But for the seasoned academic, scholar, or adamant reader on the topic, you will not gain much additional reflection on the matter.
Fourth -“Negro must develop character and worth to make him a desirable everywhere so that he will not have to knock at the doors of political parties but will have them thrown open to him.” [4. Chapter 17 – Higher Strivings in the Service of the Country – Pg. 125]
Fifth -“No man knows what he can do until he tries. The Negro race has never tried to do very much for itself. The race has great possibilities. Properly awakened, the Negro can do the so-called impossible in the business world and thus help govern rather than merely be governed”. [5. Chapter 17 – ibid – Pg. 126]
Sixth -“In the failure to see this and the advocacy of the destruction of the whole economic order to right social wrong we see again the tendency of the Negro to look to some force from without to do for him what he must learn to do for himself. The Negro needs to become radical, and the race will never amount to anything until it does become so, but this radicalism should come from within.” [6. Chapter 17 – ibid – Pg. 126]
To this end I must wonder. Would it have been better that the American Negro have remained segregated from white America? Would have been better that the American Negro had been repatriated back to Africa?
This book troubles me and this is a good thing (if a book does not stimulate thought, it is not worth reading!). Written over seventy-five years ago and yet the majority of the observations, arguments, and recommendations to correct the issues are either not really addressed properly or at all thus remaining relevant in the 21st century.
Additionally I notice the absence of any attention towards the personal responsibility parents have and always will on the education to be given at home. If the school is not teaching African history / culture than that is your duty to do so. If it is so important to the American Negro a way can be found.
But I am not convinced that that is what the American Negro really needs to focus on. In reflection, I fail to see how having an understanding of the African culture, origin, and history would have improved the mindset in any measurable way.
In the 21st century when considering the very same hypothesis of know thyself, I again fail to see the significance of such pursuit. I will use a metaphor to explain my position: The American Negro community is on fire and is in need of every engine of every fire company within a 100-mile radius to come to its aid. Within the American Negro community we find the highest rates for murder, property crime, illegitimacy, high school dropouts, absentee fathers, etc. With all of this to consider, I find it utterly impossible to promote such a distraction. This is not to say that I find it unimportant rather not the immediate agenda at hand. There is a major crisis that will only grow worse and the hour already late. The focus must be on education as it is known in America today. The American Negro needs to embrace this education as have other groups so as to improve their lot and legacy.
This book angers my soul. The arguments, observations, and remedies given are sound and of good nature in delivery. However, I do not agree with all that is written. For example. Chapter 7 discusses the so called educated Negro under the guise of the church. Two observations here. First, the Christian church has done more to harm the American Negro historically both mentally and physically than has ever done good. The ideology it seems to promote among the American Negro others is to put your worries in the hands of a higher being, pray, and wait for your blessings. Second, The ideology of collectivism which stifles individual growth is all too prevalent in the American Negro psyche. A mentality that necessarily holds individuals back from pursuing their own agenda for the sake of group sacrifice. This has only proven to be dysfunctional for the American Negro throughout history and remains so today.
I found it necessary to remind myself while reading this book that this was written over 80 years ago and yet a great majority of the issues remain. I don’t find that this book answer the questions to the problems it brings to the mind. There is an underlying ideal being presented which suggest an ideology that quite troubles me. If black Americans can only be educated properly under the premise of culture traits such as African history, black dialect, collectivism and the like, what does this say for diversity and a multicultural society we so lovingly claim to have, promote, represent here in America? This is the recipe for black separatism which suggest that blacks are not capable to academically, scholastically, or culturally capable of assimilating into American society. This only furthers the dysfunction of a whole body of people alienating them indefinitely.
The immediate and desperate change that is needed dose not await in the learning of our African heritage, nor does it rest in the pews of a church. It is necessary to embrace education as the absolute as it has its fundamentals rooted. There can be no pardon for lacking the common skills to prosper in a collective society. Without this as the pillar in the heart of black Americans we are left out of the mainstream of life.
I have to wonder if Dr. Carter Woodson would have a revised opinion based on the 21st century and the self-evidence it offers in stark contrast.
If this is the method to pursue it seems only fitting to offer this to every ethnic, cultural, and racial group in America to ensure that we remain ethnically, culturally, and racially divided!