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The following people and events were pivotal in the life of Richard Greener and play an important role in "The White Problem."

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Charles Sumner A graduate of Harvard, Sumner was first elected to the United States Senate from Massachusetts in 1851, and is perhaps best remembered for being beaten on the floor of the U.S. Senate by South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks over a family insult. The beating left Sumner crippled and made him a martyr to the anti-slavery cause. Despite his injuries, Sumner served in the Senate until his death in 1874. During Reconstruction, Sumner was a leading "radical," seeking to punish white southerners who had supported secession and civil war.

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T. McCants Stewart A native of Charleston and the child of free persons of color, Stewart attended Howard University before entering the University of South Carolina in 1874, graduating with an A.B. and an LL.B. in 1875. After Reconstruction, he left South Carolina and became a noted lawyer and journalist. Because of the state of race relations in the United States, in 1906 he renounced his citizenship and moved to Liberia, where he served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court.

Photo credit: T. McCants Stewart courtesy University of North Carolina Library North Carolina Collection. This material is accessible at no cost through the UNC Library's Documenting the American South project.

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Photo credit: Mathew Brady Studio. "Frederick Douglass." C. 1890. African-American Perspectives: The Progress of a People, Library of Congress.

Frederick Douglass Born a slave in Maryland around 1817, Douglass escaped his master and settled in Massachusetts, where he became active in the abolition movement. In 1845 he published his autobiography and lectured widely, and with the proceeds bought his freedom. After the Civil War he lived in Washington, D.C. and held several government appointments. He was widely recognized as the primary spokesman for African-Americans in the years before his death in 1895.

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W.E.B. Du Bois Born in 1868 in Massachusetts, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University. He emerged as the leading black intellectual in America in the late 1890s, and beginning in 1897 he was professor of economics and history at Atlanta University. A prolific writer of important studies of race in America, he was convinced that only through agitation and protest would social change ever come. The spiritual father of the NAACP and the modern movement for civil rights (he died during the March on Washington in 1963), Du Bois was highly critical of Booker T. Washington’s position, maintaining that full and equal civil rights were the birthright of every American. He envisioned an elite corps of African-Americans—the "Talented Tenth" —who, through higher education, would be prepared to further the welfare of their race. The rift between Washington and Du Bois began a profound division of the African American community into rival factions.

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Booker T. Washington Born a slave in Virginia. in 1856, Washington gained an education at Hampton (Va.) Institute through extraordinary effort and sacrifice. In 1881 he was chosen to establish and head the Tuskegee Institute at Tuskegee, Ala., for practical training of Negroes in trades and professions. Washington was a spokesman for a conservative viewpoint among African-Americans and believed that learning a trade and habits of self-discipline were the avenue to prosperity for blacks, rather than higher learning. This prosperity, based on their economic utility to the white community, would eventually earn African Americans respect from whites, he believed. Washington’s ideas were a tacit acceptance of racial segregation and political disenfranchisement in return for white acceptance of limited economic opportunity for African Americans. While many African Americans opposed Washington’s views, he built a powerful political machine and was widely recognized by whites as the principal spokesman for the African American community in the years around 1900.

Photo credit: Washington, Booker Taliaferro. Cheynes Studio. Photograph, ca. 1903. LC-USZ62-49568. Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Daniel A.P. Murray Pamphlets Collection.

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Niagara Movement In 1905, W.E.B. Du Bois organized a meeting of African-American leaders who shared an uncompromising goal of full economic and political rights for blacks. On July 11, 1905, this group met in Fort Erie, Ontario, to organize what became known as the "Niagara Movement," effectively spliting the nation’s black leadership into two major camps. Booker T. Washington’s "Tuskegee Machine" favored elementary and industrial education for blacks to become economically productive and, hence, eligible for full equality as citizens. Leaders of the Niagara Movement held out for an "unequivocal rejection of racism and insistence upon the fundamental equality of mankind."

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Atlanta Conference of the National Negro Business League Organized in 1900, the National Negro Business League was the organizational center of black conservatism. Dominated by Booker T. Washington (who was president until his death in 1915), the Business League gave conservative blacks a rallying point against more militant blacks such as those in the Niagara Movement. In 1905, the group met in Atlanta just after the organizing conference of the Niagara Movement.

Photo credit: from American Memory: Prosperity and Thrift: The Coolidge Era and the Consumer Economy, 1921-1929. Opportunity: selected issue and articles from 1926. Library of Congress.

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