Individuals in a salt furnace and serving as a

Individuals like Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Dubois, and Alonzo Herndon left an enormous impact on the advancement of the rights of African Americans in the New South Era. From the establishment of the NAACP to the creation of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, their efforts to improve the lives of the African American population have changed everything. Booker Taliaferro Washington, born a slave in West Virginia in 1856, became one of the most significant African Americans in the New South. Working in a salt furnace and serving as a butler at just ten years old, Washington lived a disciplined, frugal life full of strict morals and rules. Washington was taught at Hampton Institute, a school dedicated to industrial education as opposed to intellectual training. That is where he developed his unique mindset. He believed that social and civil justice for African Americans could only be pursued through hard work and determination. African Americans needed to learn and craft a useful trade in order to gain respect from whites. This philosophy led to immense support of Northern white benefactors, as well as blacks all across the nation. Because of his large impact, he was asked to deliver a speech at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia. There, he delivered the Atlanta Compromise, which spoke not only on his unique philosophy but also on the rising issues of discrimination and the relationship between black and white people, including his famous quote, “The opportunity to earn a dollar in a factory just now is worth infinitely more than the opportunity to spend a dollar in an opera house.” This speech only increased his support, and opposing newspapers and educators were often intimidated by his stance and power. Washington’s practical, realistic mindset won him international fame. In addition, his views on industrial self-reliance have ingrained into the minds of people throughout the nation. Another influential person in the New South Era was W.E.B. DuBois. Though he shared opposing views to Booker T. Washington, he left an enormous impact on the nation. Born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts in 1868, William Edward Burghardt, “W.E.B.” DuBois lead a life without a father, who died shortly after his birth. During his teen years, he worked as a newspaper reporter and graduated as valedictorian of his high school in 1884. Education was a large part of his life, so after high school, he pursued many degrees. He got a degree as a bachelor of arts from Fisk University in Nashville, as well as a bachelor and master of arts and a doctorate in history from Harvard. He also pursued graduate studies in history and economics at the University of Berlin. His thesis was published as number one in the Harvard Historical Series and is yet to be passed. From 1896 to 1897, DuBois became the assistant instructor in sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he published his sociological study. His thesis and study placed him among the leading scholars of America.  Though, he wasn’t just an accomplished scholar. His efforts to improve racial discrimination in the United States made him one of the most accomplished and significant activists. In 1905, DuBois founded the Niagara Movement, a group for African American scholars to protest and object the unequal treatment of races. He also created and edited two magazines: The Moon Illustrated Weekly and The Horizon: A Journal of the Color Line. In December 1905, DuBois released the first publication of The Moon Illustrated Weekly. The magazine only lasted through thirty-four issues, but it made history as the first illustrated weekly for African Americans. After the downfall of the first magazine, DuBois developed The Horizon: A Journal of the Color Line and oversaw the editing and publication until 1910 when DuBois became the director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which he helped create in 1909. From 1910 to 1934, DuBois directed publicity and research, worked as an active member of the Board of Directors, and edited the NAACP’s monthly magazine, The Crisis. This magazine informed African Americans across the country of civil rights issues, and, at its peak, arrived at more than 200,000 homes each month. In 1934, W.E.B. DuBois resigned from all his duties in the NAACP in order to advocate his African American Nationalist strategy, which supported African American controlled economics, institutions, and schools. This strategy opposed the views of the NAACP, but he returned to the organization from 1944 to 1948 to become the director of special research. Aside from being a socialist, scholar, and racial activist, DuBois was also an active member for pan-Africanism, which believed in the political union of indigenous African countries. His support eventually led him to take citizenship in Ghana in 1961 at the request of the president Kwame Nkrumah. W.E.B.’s efforts are most recognized through his literature. In his lifetime, he published 21 books and over 100 essays and articles, a few of which are The Negro American Family (1908), The Quest of the Silver Fleece (1911), and Black Folk, Then and Now (1939), which explains the history of black people in Africa and the New World. W.E.B. Dubois has left an incredible impact on the world, and has advocated for the civil rights of black people everywhere. His efforts are one of the most influential and inspiring of the New South Era.The next influential individual worked to better the lives of the African American population through his creation of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company. Born a slave in Walton, Georgia in 1858, Alonzo Herndon was the son of Franklin Herndon, a white slave master, and Sophenie, one of his slaves. At the end of the Civil War, Herndon and his family were freed, entering a life of their own. Homeless and poverty-stricken, Alonzo worked as a laborer and peddler at a very young age in order to provide for his family. Like so many other newly-freed slaves, Herndon went on to become a sharecropper, where he worked on rented land in exchange for a place to live and a small share of the crops he produced. Fascinated by business and entrepreneurialism, Alonzo produced and sold peanuts, homemade molasses, and axle grease to earn extra money for his family. In 1878, Herndon saved up enough money to move out of the Social Circle and began to learn the barbering trade. A few months later, he moved to Jonesboro and opened his first barber shop. There, he built a good reputation as a barber and migrated to several other cities before eventually settling in Atlanta, where he got a job in a barber shop. After six months, he gained half interest in the shop, partnering with one of the few people operating a pre-civil war barbering facility. Before long, Herndon’s passion for barbering grew, leading him to open three barber shops in the Atlanta area by 1904, including his most successful shop: 66 Peachtree Street. Decorated with gold and crystal chandeliers, the luxurious barbershop served as a popular place for the city’s lawyers, judges, politicians, and businessmen to get their hair cut. As Herndon’s success grew, he gained possession of more homes, businesses, and eventually started investing in insurance. In 1905, he purchased a failing mutual aid association, and continued investing until it became the Atlanta Life Insurance Company in 1922. Achieving Legal Reserve Status, something accomplished by only four other black insurance companies at the time, the Atlanta Life Insurance Company continued to succeed and grow, reaching to  several states across the Southern US. He also merged several failing companies into his own in order to prevent people from losing insurance. Along with being an entrepreneur, Herndon was also a fantastic leader. The African American population often looked up to him as a social and political leader. He was apart of many organizations including Booker T. Washington’s National Negro Business League and W.E.B. Dubois’ Niagara Movement. He also left an enormous impact on the local level, frequently donating to charities, local colleges, churches, and orphanages. Overall, Alonzo Herndon changed the world for the better, encouraging African Americans all across the nation. He is still known today as one of the most inspiring African American business leaders. All of these people have left a great impact on the world around them, always striving to make the world a better place. They have allowed us to get to where we are today, and we wouldn’t be here without them. These are the inspiring individuals of the difficult, prejudiced New South Era.


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