Why Waiting for the 'Talented Tenth' Might Have Us Waiting Forever

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Via Flickr
Adé Hennis
February 9, 2024

We all hold the power to change Black communities worldwide. But this activist said we only need 10% of us to do it.

In 1903, W.E.B. Du Bois wrote that a mere 10% of our people — college-educated Black men — should be our leaders. Was he right? Not exactly.

Du Bois designates men as leaders, but historically many women have stepped up to fight for and lead our communities. To the NAACP co-founder’s credit, however, he did advocate for Black women’s suffrage.

Education was questionable as well. “The best and most capable of their youth must be schooled in the colleges and universities of the land,” DuBois once said. While the school system can be helpful to Black students, Du Bois could not have foreseen a time when many Black leaders did not attend college. Education can come from many places outside of the traditional system.

It seems Du Bois wanted the best for our people. However, the idea of the Talented Tenth was better suited to his theoretical world than our real one. No matter our gender, profession or level of education, we’re all capable of being leaders in the fight for Black liberation.

We have a quick favor to ask:

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