The Meaning of Progress





The Meaning of Progress

The essay discusses the Tennessee rural community where Dubois got his first teaching position. Dubois had just graduated from school and was actively looking for a town in dire need of a teacher. He met a homely girl, Josie, aged about twenty. Josie enthusiastically oriented him, telling Dubois “that she longed to learn.” The families only take their children to the schoolhouse for lessons when they are not required to participate in farming or assist in house duties, and Dubois stays with all of them. Dubois’s attention is mostly drawn to Josie as she has a bright mind, committed to her studies, more importantly, passionate to join school one day in Nashville city. Those things qualify Josie to be part of the Talented Tenth that Dubois advocated getting access to higher education. In the essay, Dubois treat race and racial problems as an object of philosophical consideration (Gooding-Williams, Np). This paper clearly explains what Dubois thinks concerning Progress for rural African Americans communities during his time and whether or not the Progress was worth fighting.

As per the essay, Dubois went back to Tennessee town ten years later and learned that his old schoolhouse was demolished, and instead, an ugly new building was in place, not to mention the much-transformed lives of the people he had known. Dubois continued to stroll around the town, visiting some farms of his former students, among them, Ben and Tildy. Perhaps, Dubois did not rate them highly, but surprisingly, they were among the most financially stable people in the town. To make the matter worse, Dubois found that Josie died following the relentless sacrifices that she made to her broken family irrespective of their mistakes and misfortunes. Reflecting how he was inspired by the place a decade earlier, Dubois says, “How shall man measure Progress there where the dark-faced Josie lies?… How hard a thing is a life to the lowly, and yet how human and real!” (Rodrigues, Pg. 2). Dubois held that it was a prerequisite for them to study, and they had to investigate and solve. Perhaps, the world could more but not human interest or moral conviction; thus, despite the possible unpleasantness, what should always prevail is heart-quality of fairness and an earnest desire.

Dubois is somewhat relentlessly focused on the aftermath effects of exposing the truth. Perhaps, they cannot deny that indeed Dubois how influential the propaganda can be, since, as an activist, sociologist, curator, philosopher, among others, engaged himself in propaganda politics either willfully or happily. Dubois endorsed propaganda practices as he viewed it as a significant criterion for a “stripped and silent” group of people to employ (Rodrigues, Pg. 3). Regarding the Dubois articulation of propaganda, there are three notable moments in his career where they consider the functionality and purpose of propaganda.

Dubois’s analysis of social problems, more specifically, his diagnosis of the nature of Negro problems, shows his social construction accounts for racial injustices. Dubois fought the moral significance of social inquiry, which all together played a significant role in ultimately achieving what he called “evolving program for Negro freedom” (Gooding-Williams, Np). He objectively regards the Negro issues from a perspective of lived experience and thinks that he can liberate his community. He defines the social problem as “the failure of an organized social group to realize its group ideals, through the inability to adapt a certain desired line of action to the given condition of life.” Dubois gives one example where he thinks the organized social group has failed to enact a luxurious home life ideal as a result of customs that prevail in marriages. Also, crime and lawlessness have come due to failure to impose economic and social development ideals.

The evolution of Negro problems has been a “baffling adjustment of action and condition, which is the essence of progress” (Gooding-Williams, Np). Dubois considers the existing social issues have been mainly orchestrated by many failures, such as disregarding the incorporation of the Negro communities as part of the American people. The most notable losses, according to him, were racial discrimination and prejudice towards the African American people and the backwardness of the black culture. according to the essay, “people of Negro blood should not be admitted into the group life of the nation no matter what their condition maybe” (Gooding-Williams, Np). By cultural backwardness, Dubois meant that African Americans were economically disadvantaged, and at least a defective organized social life. He primarily thought that through his influence, he could air all these issues and help to make the society at least good if not better. Perhaps, racial prejudice is one lagging indicator that has accounted for Negro problems since they are entirely ignored regarding their social and economic well-being.

Dubois felt that the Negro Problem was subject to scientific inquiry. He states, “strivings of the Negro People” (Gooding-Williams, Np). as a way to adduce the double-consciousness concept for the characterization of the subjectively lived experience of social problems of African America. Dubois double- consciousness characterization appears as a “sense of always looking at oneself through the eyes of the others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity” (Gooding-Williams, Np). According to Dubois, African Americans often regard themselves as worth pitying and displaying a feeling of intense dislike when with racist whites who are among the leading causes of the Negro problem. Dubois has extensively covered the concept of double-consciousness concept in his literary works, which did receive substantial attention from different scholars while at the same time facing some contemporary philosophical disputes concerning the significance of the idea.

Dubois’s life is full of remarkable events. He was the first African American to pursue and graduate a doctorate program at Harvard. He was a civil rights champion and the founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Dubois choose to define Progress based on the humble narrative of Tennessee village instead of other story starry exploits. The essay focuses on the incompleteness of the Progress, where schools and farms are experiencing growth, but people’s lives are slipping through the cracks. Josie dies at the expense of her family, not to mention the incarceration of Jim as opposed to society promoting his potential. The town is in good shape and more prosperous, while the vast majority of the families were unstable.

Dubois’s explanation of the term progress is somewhat similar to today. A significant number of politicians offer racing tips on record lows in African American unemployment as Progress. Of course, it can be regarded as Progress, but it was still the case for Burke Farm and Jim’s underemployment. Just like the case for Josie, Jim, and the Burkes against the Jim Crow, there exist little or no service jobs that could resolve the systemic racism. Raw employment numbers could not answer to mass incarceration, biasness, and gaps. The successes were barely accommodation in the system of whichever the time. To achieve substantial and meaningful justice, it requires mechanisms that should be put in place to eradicate institutions, laws, and norms that advocate injustice acts. According to Dubois, two conditions should be satisfied for politics to fit and be in a position to respond to Jim Crow Laws of racial apartheid.

Works Cited

Gooding-Williams, Robert. “WEB Du Bois.” (2017).

Rodrigues, Donald T. ” Of the Meaning of Progress”: DuBoisian Double Consciousness, Propaganda, and the Rhetoric of Scientific Racism. Diss. Vanderbilt University, 2013.