W.E.B. DuBois, in The Souls of Black Folk argues that blacks had to live with the feeling of having two identities. African Americans in the 1920’s was living a period of tension. African Americans felt that they were still not looked upon as equals by whites despite no longer being slaves. DuBois writes “The Nation has not yet found peace from its sins the freedman has not yet found in freedom his promised land (DuBois 266). DuBois saw a world that he loves, but he also saw that he cannot belong to this world because it belongs to the whites. He felt that whites looked through blacks and constructed their own opinions about them. He insists that the right to vote, civic equality, and the education of youth according to ability were essential for African American progress. Throughout his writing DuBois talks about the gap between being black and American. This gap is far to wide and puts African Americans in the backburner of society. DuBois also writes “He felt his poverty; without a cent, without a home, without land, tools, or savings, he had entered into competition with rich, landed, skilled neighbors. To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships” (DuBois 267). He felt like this because from a young age he saw how people of color were treated differently, they were not allowed to have things like the white men. People categorized the African Americans as low uneducated people and saw them as property even when black people had their freedom. The line of equality was unfairly balanced towards the white people, giving them peace of mind while the black people where still looking for the land of the free and home of the brave.
Lewis Douglass would agree with W.E.B. DuBois in many things. For example, Douglass felt that it was unjust how President McKinley was putting African Americans on the back burner and how President McKinley was going to give the Filipino people a treatment that African American had been fighting for, for a long time. President McKinley said in his speech that Filipinos were going to be treated differently he said ‘They will not be governed as vassals, or serfs, or slaves. They will be given a government of liberty, regulated by law, honestly administered, without oppressing exaction, taxation without tyranny, justice without bribe, education without distinction of social conditions, freedom of religious worship, and protection of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” (Douglass 243). African Americans were enlisting in the military and dying for their country, this did not matter those soldiers were still not being acknowledge and were still seeing as worthless dirt.
On his letter Douglass also writes “President McKinley knows that brave, loyal, black American soldiers, who fight and die for their country, are hated, despised, and cruelly treated in that section of the country from which this administration accepts dictation and to the tastes of which the President, undoubtedly, caters” (Douglass 243). This quote leads me to the document “The Negro Should Not Enter the Army May 1, 1899”. In this document showed how African Americans felt that they were defending the country for no reason. They felt like they had no flag to fight for and if that was the case it was better for them to let the white men enlist in the Army. “If it is a white man’s government, and we grant it is, let him take care of it. The Negro has no flag to defend” (244). White people did not approve of blacks joining the United States Army. When those African American Soldiers came in to towns, they were either looked as murders or cowards by the white people. This led to many African Americans to start boycotting the enlistment in the arm forces. “Take no oath to protect any flag that offers no protection to its sable defenders. If we had the voice of seven thunders, we would sound a protest against Negro enlistment till the very ground shook below our feet” (245).
In the I. D. BARNETT ET Al., “Open Letter to President McKinley by Colored People of Massachusetts October 3, 1899” Barnett is addressing the president asking for equality. “We have suffered, sir,—God knows how much we have suffered!—since your accession to office, at the hands of a country professing to be Christian, but which is not Christian, from the hate and violence of a people claiming to be civilized, but who are not civilized, and you have seen our sufferings, witnessed from your high place our awful wrongs and miseries, and yet you have at no time and on no occasion opened your lips in our behalf.
Why? we ask. Is it because we are black and weak and despised? Are you silent because without any fault of our own we were enslaved and held for more than two centuries in cruel bondage by your forefathers? Is it because we bear the marks of those sad generations of Anglo-Saxon brutality and wickedness, that you do not speak? Is it our fault that our involuntary servitude produced in us widespread ignorance poverty and degradation? Are we to be damned and destroyed by the whites because we have only grown the seeds which they planted? Are we to be damned by bitter laws and destroyed by the mad violence of mobs because we are what white men made us? And is there no help in the federal arm for us, or even one word of audible pity, protest and remonstrance in your own breast, Mr. President, or in that of a single member of your Cabinet? Black indeed we are, sir, but we are also men and American citizens” (Barnett 246). This long quote summarizes all of what the African Americans were feeling at that time. It wasn’t their fault that they were enslaved or that they had no wealth and land, then why wasn’t the president steeping up and helping them.
Why didn’t they get the same voice advocating for them like the white people? All they wanted was equality and to be recognized as American Citizens. It seemed like the government or President would look the other way when it came to matters that had to do with African Americans. I believe that all three documents and W.E.B DuBois have the same view point about what African Americans had to deal with during this time. Not only were white people prejudice about black people, but they still wanted to treat African Americans like slaves. What all this document’s show us is that Black people were treated unfair, African American were not given the same rights as white people and the government was not doing anything about it. Also, the documents showed us how African American’s felt like if they were living a double life. They did not belong anywhere because yes, they had their freedom but white people where still seeing them as trash. That’s why lots of African Americans doubted themselves when it came to getting an education. They felt that no matter what white people would not recognize their efforts. African Americans started to think that white people had a point and that they where starting to believe that they were all the derogative words the white people would use to refer to them.