booker.jpg (1838 bytes)BRICKS and STRAWdubois.jpg (1986 bytes)


Teleplay by John Byrd & Amy Ostrower

The year is 1915.  Most of black America mourns the death of their leader, Booker T. Washington, dubbed  the 'Moses of his People'. The rest were glad to be rid of him, for Booker was a controversial figure, who preached that full equality for the Negro race had to be earned and should be a gradual process, while his detractors advocated equal rights here and now.

Born into slavery, Booker grew up in a time of America's greatest social challenge, incorporating the newly-emancipated slaves into society. He was among the first of his race to graduate from Hampton Institute, a vocational school, and prototype for what would later become his own Tuskegee Institute. Starting from nothing, and by sheer will and force of personality, Booker created one of the most impressive schools for Negroes in the South.

His success drew the enthusiastic support of white business leaders such as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, who were ir-npressed with his philosophy of discipline, hard work and self-reliance. They could appreciate a man who pulled himself up by his own bootstraps. He knew how to speak their language.
After his fiery speech at the International Expo in Atlanta, Booker was in constant demand as a public speaker. It was clear that he was the natural successor to Frederick Douglass, as a leader of his people. To others, he was anything but. He became an advisor to Presidents McKinley, Roosevelt and Taft. To the shock and delight of many, he was the first Negro to eat dinner with the President and his family at the White House. But for many in America, this was not enough.

Younger, Northern- educated Blacks such as W.E.B. DuBois and William Monroe Trotter saw Booker as an Uncle Tom, who advocated taking it slow, as opposed to agitating for equal rights now. Despite Booker's behind-the-scenes attempts at what these younger firebrands were demanding, he would find himself frustrated, as well, by the every growing Jim Crow laws and stripping away of black rights.
At the height of his success, the country's 'great Negro leader' was publicly humiliated when attacked by a white man and dragged into court in one of the most sensational trials of the decade. It was not until his untimely death, that his enemies saw the wisdom of burying the ax, and forming a greater coalition to establish change, through the newly formed NAACP.

As we approach the 21st century, the question still remains, which is the most effective way to bring about social change? Building bricks from straw, as Booker did, or throwing them?  








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