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In The Period 1880-1915 Did Black People Achieve More Through Protest Or Accommodation 

By 1880 in America, the effect of the continuing process of legislating the means to segregate and discriminate against the black population had been embraced by most states. This had a huge detrimental effect to not just civil rights, but basic human rights towards the recently emancipated slaves. This brought with it a sharp polarization in the opinion of the black population, in regards how to tackle this problem. On one hand there were those who believed in protesting against the system, to fight for their noble cause of equality, however a large majority believed in accommodating these measures, in showing they were civilised beings and equal to the white man. The outcome was that by accommodating these laws, they gained much respect and made advances; however the effect the militant and protesting wing of the civil rights movement merely reiterated the prejudicial stereotypes held my their oppressors, and in essence hindered any advancements made.A prominent figure in the aggressive and militant wing of the movement, was Ida B. Wells. She was a southern protestor who believe in fighting the legalised segregation exerted by the federal governments. On numerous occasions she fought these measures, such as when a conductor asked her to stand for a white man in Ohio, and she resisted and was arrested. This was a result of the famous ‘Plessy vs. Ferguson’ court case, which paved the way for legalised segregation with its ‘separate but equal’ philosophy. Although she successfully sued the company, what in essence was the outcome of this behaviour is it merely fuelled the white propaganda and Wells on occasion after occasion underestimated the strength on this.The establishment realised the role fear played in mobilising the population to legitimise its brutal and inhumane laws, and these actions only reiterated these racially motivated stereotypes. Although what she was doing was merely resistance, her celebrity rose after forming the ‘Free Speech’ newspaper, with its firm anti-segregationist stance gained her publicity as a firm protestor, an attacker of society and the establishment, and therefore gained and consolidated the stereotypes held by the white population. Although she was a major player in highlighting the institutionalised racism and uniting the freedmen against this common cause, she isolated the white moderates who sympathised with the blacks fight for justice, and therefore had a detrimental effect on the movement as a whole.Her tireless efforts highlighting the prominence of lynching’s in pamphlets such as ‘Southern Horrors: Lynch Law In All Its Phases’ publicised these occurrences, however these agitated the white population and those in power, and only reinforcing them to cover up these brutal happenings by propagating the militant nature of the black population as a whole. Although she paved the way for the later activists in the form of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jnr, she resisted against a society that wasn’t over their perceived advantages of slavery. Playwright Tazewell Thompson describes her as a ‘dynamic, controversial, temperamental, uncompromising race woman…she was a seminal figure in post-reconstruction America’. What his highlights is her personality and means as a protestor, and unwittingly shows why she may of hindered the advancements of the civil rights movement, regardless of how just she was in her actions.Whereas Wells represented the more aggressive school of thought in the civil rights movement, her counterpart W. E. B. De Bois contrasted highly in his beliefs in the methods of attaining equality. Wells was a firm believer in resisting federal legislation, however De Bois was an advocator of accommodating these measures, and using intellectual capabilities to highlight the two races similarities as a means of progressing. For example in 1900 alongside Booker T. Washington organised the Exposition Universelle in Paris. He wanted to show the positive contribution African-Americans could make to society. This is the fundamental difference between himself and Wells’ school of thought, and highlighting the reason why his methods were more successful, as she only reiterated not just the perceived intrinsic differences between whites and blacks, but reinforced the racial stereotypes of the blacks and arguably showing how this race could never be integrated into American society.By founding the ‘Niagra Movement’ with William Monroe Trotter, advocating for the basic civil rights and the erosion of racial segregation and stereotypes, he showed his willingness to adapt into the perceived civilised and constitutional manner of American society, and emphasizing the advantages of giving full racial equality. This willingness to integrate into American society was also shown through he columns in major publications such as the San Francisco Chronicle and Chicago Defender, and shows how the accommodation of the Jim Crow laws as opposed to protesting evidently was more successful.However, because of his advanced level of intellect and education, he therefore held many critical views against the opinions of those less fortunate in the black community, as highlighted as explains ‘A little less complaining and whining, and a little more dogged work and manly striving, would do us more credit than a thousand civil rights bills’. Although this quote would isolate many blacks, De Bois was however successful as presenting himself as a microcosm of the potentiality of the black race as he saw them, and consequently made more advancements than isolating the white population than protesting.Following this trend set by De Bois was Booker T. Washington, another prominent advocator of accommodating the Jim Crow Laws and continuing process of eroding blacks’ civil rights. Just like De Bois he had a reasonable education compared to a lot of the black population, and because of this was a believer in the importance of educating the freedmen, as a means of accommodating and integrating them within American society. He was also seen as a spokesperson for the African-American community because of his accommodating view of attaining civil rights for the blacks, and therefore gained much publicity in highlighting the ‘good’ within the movement, whereas Wells would be considered an aggressor and hinderer to any advancements. Washington once remarked that ‘enjoyment of all the privileges that come to us must be the severe and constant struggle rather than of artificial forcing’. This shows his awareness as to the disadvantages of being an agitator of the establishment, like Wells did, and reiterate just why he was so successful in brining the issue of civil rights to the forefront of debate at the turn on the century.Because of is very institutionalised thought of attaining civil rights and equality, he received criticism within the movement. Even De Bois once called him ‘The Great Accommodator’ as a result of his outlook on the issue. He responded by stating that confrontation would be detrimental to the cause, as the blacks would be massively outnumbered, so therefore cooperation with the whites was the only way to overcome racism. This admission and belief largely symbolises the reason that protesting was not as successful, as he identifies the power of public opinion, and how effective the mobilization of the population would devastate the movement, and this was something fundamentally Wells overlooked in her well intended aggression against the system.What has been highlighted by the aforementioned characters in the fight for civil rights in a post-reconstruction America is the power of accommodation in discarding the popular feeling of superiority over the freedmen. This showed the possible future integration of this once perceived inferior race, however, the protestation by some elements of the movement only reinforced the racially motivated stereotypes attained through the years of slavery by the white population. Therefore it is evident that accommodating paved the way for the successful struggle against the legalised segregation that had blighted the emancipation of the slaves.

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