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The idea of blackness is not a simple experience to discuss Blackness is not just the literal visual complexion It is also how blacks are socially and economically identified Ones blackness is almost always identified with ones skin complexion Within the black community a hierarchy exists that is based upon skin complexion Those at the top have light skin and features resembling whites features Those on the lower strata are darker with more African features According to The Color Complex by Kathy Russell Midge Wilson and Ronald Hall this phenomenon begins with the arrival of the first blacks to the United States at Jamestown in 1619 The phenomenon does not become significant until after the Civil War when the black population is freed from slavery Russell et al p 24 During slavery mulattos were given a certain amount of freedom Many of them were actually free and proprietors of businesses They fared better than the darker skinned emancipated s laves because of their light skin and ability to often pass for white Russell et al p 24-26 After the Civil War groups of mulattos formed social societies churches and universities that limited membership to light skinned blacks in order to maintain the higher social status obtained during slavery Russell et al p 26-28 The dichotomy is theoretically based on this necessity of a good position in society In education the split was continued by the leaders at the time specifically near Reconstruction Booker T Washington founder of the Tuskegee Institute emphasized vocational training for blacks WEB DuBois posited that education or book learning was the only way for blacks to prove themselves and move up the social ladder Although he said this was not possible without the help of the Talented Tenth- a group of all ready successful blacks who were mostly mulatto- to help others in moving up rank-wise Because of the restrictions at the universiti es darker skinned blacks had to
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