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David Levering Lewis : An "Aristocracy of Color"
David Levering Lewis A term has come along that is rather favored by students of social and cultural history these days, especially as it applies to communities like that that existed in Washington at this time, an "aristocracy of color". That, of course, has a certain caricaturish element to it, but it essentially does reflect an upwardly mobile mindset based on, indeed, some real income and substance, patronage positions, the professions of teaching and lawyering, of course, some banking. The community in Washington, like that in Baltimore, was exemplary for its frugality and industry its accomplishments. It was rather smug, you might say, too, exclusive. It was mindful of the fact that it was quite special, that numerically it represented far less in its community than successful people in other communities by that time did. And the other characterization of it was one that Dubois himself devised, and that was that it was a "talented tent". It was a group that esteemed professional success, that had a premium on manners whose children went to good schools and then off to better schools in the North. It resented bitterly, I think, overwhelming so, the bargain that Booker Washington and his supporters had struck with the White South. It believed, this group did, that you couldn't have progress without civil rights, you had to have a ballot, otherwise, the other things became a mockery and -- and lacked substance. And it is that group in Washington, indeed in Brooklyn, in Baltimore in Philadelphia that begins to coalesce around Dubois and though, by 1900 it's still in the formative period it will soon become a political force within the African American community.

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