Monthly Archives: July 2007

Who Do You See?

By Ronald Court

The differing perspectives of WEB duBois and Dr. Washington got me to thinking. In this picture below, what do you see?

witch or lady?

Do you see an ugly witch? … or a beautiful lady? Look harder. Can you see the other image also … the lady or the witch?

It’s about perspective. Booker T and WEB clearly saw life differently. For a hundred years, “Duboisians” and “Bookerites” have opposed one another.

I’m a staunch Bookerite, and though the BTW Society is a do tank, make no mistake. Bookerites think as well as do. We can see and understand (as Booker T. did) the view from the other side. However, to understand is not necessarily to agree.

Duboisians over the years have misled people into believing that Booker T.’s view or approach to living, was a “compromise”.

We aim to fix that misperception.

Are you a Bookerite or a Duboisian? This inquiring mind wants to know.


By Ronald Court

A Florida family learned on the radio that a terrible hurricane was coming. But as they were church going people their father said, “Don’t worry, God will save us.”

Sure enough, the wind and rains came and the river rose. And as it started to overflow its banks, a neighbor drove up in his minivan, offering to help. “No need” said the father, “God will save us.” So the neighbor drove away.

As the water rose and washed into the 1st floor of the house, a guy in a boat rowed by, offering to help. “No need” said the fatherr, “God will save us.” So the guy rowed away.

The water rose up to the 2nd floor, so they clambored onto the roof. The Coast Guard in a helicopter spotted them and offered to take them out. “No need, God will save us,” they yelled up. So the helicopter flew away.

But the water kept rising, and they finally began to fear for their lives, so they called out to God to save them.

At that moment, the clouds parted and a light shone down. Then, a deep voice boomed down from above, saying, “I told you on the radio. Then I sent a car, a boat and a helicopter. What more do you want?”

Personal responsibility. … Booker T. knew all about that.

We’ve Got Work To Do

By Ronald Court

A Boston Globe phone survey last summer, raises a disturbing thought:

Pretty much half of all Blacks polled felt that America is the land of opportunity and are personally achieving the American Dream.

Phone survey-American DreamYet, it looks like only about half of those seem to feel that by working and playing by the rules, they will get to live a comfortable life. Why so negative?

Note the way more positive outlook of Latinos. But all we’ve been hearing lately is how they take all the low-paying jobs “nobody wants.” How can that lead to a “comfortable life?” Oh, wait. They are choosing to work. Many more of them seem to have embraced the optimistic work ethic of Booker T. And it looks like more of them refuse to fall into the “I am a vicitm” trap still being touted by some old-school Black “leaders.” Any shrink will tell you real change come from the inside.

So, for those with “attitude” (negative or positive), what does this tell you? This inquiring mind wants to know. Comment below.

What’s Up With Tuskegee U.?

By Ronald Court

One would think that Tuskegee University would give Booker T. Washington adequate props. TU was born on the Fourth of July (1881) without land, buildings, staff or even teachers. Yet in just 35 years, TU was the pre-eminent Negro institution of higher learning with a several hundred acre campus, over a hundred buildings and a $40 million (today’s $$) endowment along the way. Thanks to Booker T.
Yet, Tuskegee’s website presents Booker T. simply as one of its leaders.

Tuskegee’s website appears to pay reluctant lip-service to the man who built this educational, agricultural, industrial and entrepreneurial powerhouse for Blacks out of Alabama’s red dirt – literally. Why?

Has its leadership and/or faculty been swayed by WEB DuBois’ century-old misrepresentation of Booker T’s Atlanta Exposition Address as a “compromise”? Has it been intimidated (indoctrinated?) by the resentful dissing of Booker T’s malevolent detractors? Or maybe they just feel that Booker T’s philosophy and values are irrelevant today.

Whatever. Booker T. deserves better, especially from Tuskegee.

Example: Tuskegee’s home page doesn’t even mention Booker T.

Example: Its Celebrating 125 Years page isn’t exactly enthusiastic about Dr. Washington’s legacy. “Political participation is important, where possible, but solid education community-building, creating jobs, on-the-job training, good health and character development are essential in Washington’s view.” What part of that is not TU’s “view” today?

Let me guess. The part where Booker T. put “political participation” behind all those other essentials.

Example: One page each is devoted to Tuskegee’s Presidents. The pages devoted to BTW’s successors carefully list every honor, honorary degree and prestigious membership of its subject. But no mention of the honorary degrees conferred on BTW by Harvard & Dartmouth. No mention that BTW founded the National Negro Business League. And no mention (one is left to infer) that Dr. Booker T. Washington brought George Washington Carver to Tuskegee in 1886. Were it not for Booker T’s prescience and managerial skills in bringing and retaining the tempermental Dr. Carver, the continued fame and fortune Carver attracted for Tuskegee after Booker T. died would likely have gone elsewhere.

There’s more. Stay tuned. What’s your take?

What the 4th of July Means to Me

By Ronald Court

A.M.E. Zon ChurchExactly 126 years ago today in 1881, Booker T. Washington opened the doors to the Tuskegee Normal & Industrial Institute for the first time. He had arrived a month before, but mindfully selected July 4th as opening day, holding the first class in the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Zion church (replica opp.).

Booker T. Washington thus established his school “under the auspices of both religion and patriotism.” Like the founding fathers and other great American leaders (some quoted below) both before and after his time, he seemed to understand the uniquely beneficial power these forces, in just proportion to one another, hold for us all.

“We all can pray. We all should pray. We should ask the fulfillment of god’s will. We should ask for courage, wisdom, for the quietness of soul which comes alone to them who place their lives in His hands. Harry Truman, 33rd US President

“America was founded by people who believed that God was their rock of safety. I recognize we must be cautious in claiming that God is on our side, but I think it’s all right to keep asking if we’re on His side.”
Ronald Reagan, 40th US President

“Education is useless without the Bible. The Bible was America’s basic textbook in all fields. God’s word, contained in the Bible, has furnished all necessary rules to direct our conduct.”
Noah Webster, “The Schoolmaster of the Nation” 1758-1843

The First Female Millionaire

By Ronald Court

It’s fitting that my first entry in the “Opportunity” category would be about a first, the first female to become a self-made millionaire. She did it in the cosmetics business. I’m not talking about Mary Kay, though her story too is inspiring. This is about the first self-made female … black or white… to reach the millionaire milestone. She did it with integrity & character and against all odds.

Madam C. J. Walker
with thanks to author Brian Souza, for permission

“..I did not succeed by traversing a path strewn with roses. I made great sacrifices, met with rebuff after rebuff, and had to fight hard to put my ideas into effect.”


Born to freed slaves and sharecroppers in rural Louisiana in 1867, she was orphaned by age ten. Illiterate, she was forced to start working six days a week picking cotton, cooking, and cleaning in white households. Married by fourteen, a mother at sixteen, and a widow by age twenty, life for Madam C. J. didn’t start out in a promising way. But despite adversity most of us will never know, she went on to become the first self-made female millionaire-white or black-in the United States.How? By taking an introspective look to discover who she really was and by deciding that she could-and would-transcend her roots to achieve her dreams. In short, by tapping into the very same powers that lie dormant within you right now.

For starters, after she was widowed, she took her daughter to St. Louis, Missouri, in search of education and a better way of life. At first being a washerwoman was tough going, but then Walker had a moment of self-revelation. As she later described it to The New York Times, she was a thirty-five-year-old single mother who “was at my tubs one morning with a heavy wash before me. As I bent over the washboard and looked at my arms buried in soapsuds, I said to myself, ‘What are you going to do when you grow old and your back gets stiff? Who is going to take care of your little girl?’ This set me to thinking, but with all my thinking I couldn’t see how I, a poor washer-woman, was going to better my condition.”

But she was committed. There was no turning back. Like all successful people, she took a chance and bet on herself. In 1905, with only $1.50 in savings, she moved to Denver, where she started a business making and selling a hair-straightening and beautifying product for African-American women. She eventually built a nationwide sales force numbering in the thousands. It wasn’t until she took a chance at she discovered her gift wasn’t doing the wash but the ability to spire women to take pride in themselves and to refuse to live with- the stereotypical confines of the times.

A century ago, few women-let alone African American women-traveled by themselves. But Madam C. J. crisscrossed the country almost continuously to spread the word about her products.

She first sold them door-to-door, then through the mail, and eventually in pharmacies. She was relentless in her marketing efforts. She stuck steadfastly to her goal-and never quit working on ways to improve her business. She realized that if she was going to make something of herself, she would have to develop her gift into some- thing of value. She had no formal education, but that didn’t stop her from hiring tutors to improve her vocabulary, teach her proper grammar, and broaden her horizons.

Similarly, she created jobs for thousands of black saleswomen, not only paying them well, but also setting up philanthropies and foundations to help educate them. In short, she built and ran a national cosmetics empire based on the highest principles-a feat that would have seemed remote when she was a shoeless orphan chopping cotton in Louisiana.

Her journey from poverty to wealth, from obscurity to fame, and from having the most menial of jobs to being a leader for women’s rights and economic freedom was remarkable to say the least.

Perseverance is my motto,” she told one interviewer. “It laid the Atlantic cable, it gave us the telegraph, telephone, and wireless. It gave to the world an Abraham Lincoln and to the race, freedom.” In her determination to live her dream, she defied long odds. And by the time of her death in 1919, she had become, as her biographer Beverly Lowry noted, “an icon, a legend, and an exemplar.”