W.E.B. Du Bois' The Talented Tenth: Rhetorical Analysis

Topics: America

W.E.B DuBois in the book, The Talented Tenth (1903), argues that the focal point should mainly be on providing classical education for African Americans of the top ten percent and that having that education would be crucial to African American empowerment. DuBois supports his argument by explaining how the African American community would have a huge advantage if there were to be a group of educated negros. The author’s purpose is to show the significance of education for the negro in order to prove that people of African descent shared common interests to escape the struggle of no education.

He establishes a relationship with the audience and writes in an inspirational and direct tone for the one in ten black men who are capable and worthy of becoming leaders.

Booker T. Washington in the speech, The Atlanta Compromise (1895), asserts that preparing for craft vocations was more important than receiving higher education and social advantages, he believed that having vocational education sought opportunity for maintaining a stable source of financial income for protecting African Americans’ standard of living.

Washington supports his assertion by explaining that African Americans should not receive advanced education and that they should basically form their lives around trade. The author’s purpose is to convince African Americans to pursue vocational training, using their hands and not their minds in order to make a living. Throughout his speech, he establishes a formal relationship with his audience and speaks in a philosophical and charismatic, yet respective tone for the white and black men.

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Two great leaders of the black community during the 19th and 20th centuries were similar in a way in which they both wanted economic progress and social progress for the blacks but had opposing philosophies in the way in which they wanted to achieve it. These philosophers used several different rhetorical devices in the development of their pieces of literature. DuBois and Washington are still important key figures today because of their vital roles in history due to their motives, relationships with their audience, and the different techniques they used to persuade their audience.

DuBois and Washington both wanted to establish social and economic progress for African Americans. Both philosophers quickly established a bond with their audience particularly because of the relationship they had with them. This is how they established their credibility with the audience because they relate to the African Americans whom they are speaking to. As we know, Washington was born a slave, and, in his speech, is speaking about the oppression that he has experienced personally, which makes his speech more influential. DuBois, on the other hand, was born post-slavery and stills speak from a view of understanding the racial injustices that were at stake. He established ethos in order to allow blacks to integrate into society. He reminds the whites that without blacks, the South would not be as prosperous. The blacks built the cites and everything in order to have the South succeed. (Washington, 1895) DuBois experienced some of the after-effects of slavery and was still segregated during the era in which he was born.

In their pieces of literature, these philosophers both had an advantage in speaking upon these racial issues. DuBois and Washington both evoked the audience’s emotions about the problems they had but hit different focal points concerning them. Washington wanted relations between the whites and blacks to be fixed. As he explained that the South would not be successful without the blacks, he simultaneously evokes the whites’ emotions demanding them to respect the African Americans’ contributions to society that failed to understand the significance of their work. He continues to build his speech discussing that blacks will continue flourishing in the making of Southern society. DuBois appeals to the audience’s emotions by informing them that the top ten percent of African Americans will become exceptional leaders (DuBois, 1903). He makes African Americans feel like there is hope to rise above the oppression they have faced all their lives. These philosophers both utilize logic in their pieces. Both have a way with numbers, making their pieces stronger and more believable. Their usage of several different rhetorical strategies influences the connection between the author and the audience.

Even though DuBois and Washington wanted better for African Americans, they both had opposing ideologies on the strategies to achieve black excellence. Booker T. Washington believed that African Americans and whites should develop a partnership to prosper. In The Atlanta Compromise, Washington uses a form of repetition in his speech to stress what is more vital for the audience to remember. He uses an anaphora in the phrase “Cast down your bucket where you are” repetitively. Simultaneously utilizing this skill, he also uses an allegory, “Cast down your bucket where you are” derives from a short story about a ship who was without drinking water that forced to use what was around them. When Washington uses that phrase, he is urging African Americans to remain in the South and use their vocational skills and prosper there. He also urged the white businessmen to hire African Americans that were local over hiring those who are not. Those skills stresses what he wanted the audience to remember. Washington also uses the simile “No race can prosper till it learns that there is much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem”.

He uses this skill to explain to the audience that there is no shame to have jobs that require labor work and that these positions are important in order for them to succeed. DuBois on the other hand uses a different set of rhetorical devices to develop his writing. In the Talented Tenth, DuBois uses a form of visual aid such as enumeration, providing statistics showing the percentage of occupations of college-bred negros. To make his book seem more plausible, he uses a series of rhetorical questioning to establish important key points to make the audience think more about what he is writing. Some of the questions he poses to his audience are “What under the present circumstance, must a system of education do in order to raise the Negro as quickly as possible in the scale of civilization, Do you think that if the leaders of thought among negros are not trained and educated thinkers, that they will have no leaders, Is not God a God of justice to all his creatures?” He does this to establish his points so that the audience can understand his perspective of black excellence. DuBois also alludes to several different prosperous black men who did not participate in labor work in order to become successful. He includes these men such as Dr. James Derham, Ira Aldridge, David Walker, Purvis and Remond, Alexander Crummell, Bruce and Elliot, Williams and Payne, and McCune Smith to set an example and show that they were some of the African Americans who were “educated and gifted leaders.” He understands that not everyone can go to college, but some must in order for the African American population to succeed. DuBois and Washington had their eyes both in the same direction but had different goals. They used different rhetorical strategies to get their audience’s attention.

In brief, even though had different ideologies Booker T. Washington and W.E.B DuBois were both intellectual philosophers and knew just what to say to convey their ideas and opinions, even more, important they knew how to phrase and present what was key. Both authors executed these rhetorical skills strongly which made them very persuasive.

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W.E.B. Du Bois' The Talented Tenth: Rhetorical Analysis. (2020, Oct 29). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/w-e-b-du-bois-the-talented-tenth-rhetorical-analysis/

W.E.B. Du Bois' The Talented Tenth: Rhetorical Analysis
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