Unity (1924)

Unity (1924)

Within the Negro race we are continually scoring ourselves for lack of unity and we are holding up other races and other groups as splendid examples of perfect agreement. We forget in this criticism one thing: the basis of all advance and development is Diversity; the characteristic of stagnation and death is Unity. Any attempt in a growing organism to make all of its factors act alike, is simply and definitely to stop growth.

On the other hand, without doubt, diversity, difference, the struggle of ideas and ideals means lost motion and personal bickering; but some minimum of this is absolutely essential in the present situation of the Negro race. There must be among both white people and colored, grave and deep differences of opinion as to method and end with regard to black folk in America.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People represents one point of view. It represents it sincerely and definitely. It believes that either the Negro will become a full fledged American citizen the equal of every other citizen in legal rights, political power, civil opportunity and social recognition—that either this will happen or democracy in America will die and democracy in the world receive a mortal blow. It believes passionately that the attempt to arrange this world in a hierarchy of races with the so-called

“Nordics” dominating and subordinating the mass of men, is the most outrageous and foolhardy program that thoughtful people can be a party to. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People recognizes that, compared with the attitude of the bourbon South, its program is revolutionary; that compared with what the best and forward looking elements of the South are willing to concede, this program is radical and exceeds their will and wish. In addition to this our association knows that there are many honest colored people who believe that we will never get our rights by the sort of agitation and fighting which this association and the Crisis carries on, but that submission to evil, catering to the best white South and in general “laying low” is the only way for us to achieve even partial freedom.

Under such circumstances to talk unity and agreement is nonsense. If the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is right, these other people are wrong. If one group is walking North and the ether group walking South, or even if they are nearer in points of compass but nevertheless going in different directions, for them to unite will be for one or both of them to give up their deepest and most cherished beliefs. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People therefore seeks and desires union only with those who believe in its program and are willing to fight with it for its consummation. Such people together with others who are willing to listen to its arguments it invites to its great Philadelphia meeting this day and this year.

Come and hear the story of the development of democracy in the United States and the way in which a handful of men united in 1909, have become a mighty host in 1924 and are unswervingly determined to go forward to the great ideal of American democracy despite color, sex and race; an association which “will not equivocate, will not excuse and will be heard.”

Citation: Du Bois, W.E.B. 1924. “Unity.” The Crisis. 28(3):103–104.