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Faith of A Mustard Seed

by Barbara Woods-Washington
Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

Seeing how his undergraduate Fisk degree (south), comes BEFORE his PhD Harvard degree (north and home), built Du Bois as the ‘mind and heart and pen’ of the deepest knowledge of racial justice.  As a man relentless in his commitment to attack the Nation’s injustices dealt upon it’s now ‘free born on it’s soil’ black population, he becomes… “The Man”.

The work of the ‘Niagara Movement’ progresses into the ‘National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’.  This connection is made by the NAACP in their world wide web historical statement: “Echoing the focus of Du Bois’ Niagara Movement for civil rights, which began in 1905, NAACP aimed to secure for all people the rights guaranteed in the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution, which promised an end to slavery, provide equal protection of the law, and the right for all men to vote, respectively.”

 “The Armenia Conference” by W. E. B. Du Bois

“We were told that we were fighting the stars in their courses. Yet from that beginning of the Niagara Movement in 1905 down to the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909, we were welding the weapons, breasting the blows, stating the ideals, and preparing the membership for the larger, stronger organization. Seven of the twenty-nine went on the first Board of Directors of the NAACP, and the rest became leading members.

We said in the Sixth Annual Report: ‘“The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was first called into being on the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. It conceives its mission to be the completion of the work which the great emancipator began. It proposes to make a group of 10,000,000 Americans free from the ‘lingering shackles of past slavery: physically free from peonage, mentally free from ignorance, politically free from disfranchisement, and socially free from insult.”

“We are impelled to recognize the pressing necessity of such a movement when we consider these facts:

‘The lynching of 2,812 prisoners without trial in the last thirty years.’

‘The thousands of unaccused black folk who have in these years been done to death.’

‘The widespread use of crime and alleged crime as a source of public revenue.’

‘The defenseless position of colored women, continually threatened by laws to make their bodies indefensible and their children illegitimate.’

‘The total disfranchisement of three-fourths of the black voters.

‘The new attack on property rights.”

About two hundred invitations to white and colored people were actually issued; sixty or more persons expressed their willingness to attend. J. C. Napier of Tennessee. Charles W. Chesnutt of   Cleveland. Mary Church Terrell. James W. and J. Rosamond Johnson. “We talked of many matters at Amenia—of education, politics, organization, and the situation in the South.”

As a native Clevelander, I must honor here, the presence of Charles W. Chestnutt, born a free black man in Cleveland in 1858… during Slavery!  Prior to this writing, I only knew his name because during my childhood, several of my family members attended Charles W. Chestnutt Elementary School.  OMG!  Time for only one thing about Chestnutt in this space: In 1906 when both Booker T. Washington and WEB Du Bois organized the most prominent scholars & leaders of The Race into their respective organizations to bring freedom for the ‘Freed Men’, Chestnut, had Pincipaled the Fayetteville State Normal School for Negroes, and heeded the call of Washington.  He wrote in 1882 “I get more and more tired of The South…”.  More to come of his life and works as we now find him present at the Armenia Conference.

WEB writes further about the Conference, “While we were there the world was fighting and had fought two long years. In another year America was destined to join the war and the Negro race was to be torn and shaken in its very heart by new and tremendous problems. The old order was going and a new face situation was to be developed.

Du Bois continues “Of all this the Amenia Conference was a symbol. Probably on account of our meeting the Negro race was more united and more ready to meet the problems of the world than it could possibly have been without these beautiful days of understanding. It was a ‘‘Close ranks!’’ before the great struggle that issued in the new world…”

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