booker t. washington portrait

From Adam Clayton Powell Sr.

New York, March 1, 1911

My Dear Dr. Washington:

I have been ill about six weeks and am still confined to the bed. For this reason my correspondence has been neglected.

Although late in answering, allow me to assure you that I very greatly appreciate your letter received a few weeks ago. When I was commending your work and leadership before my audience, I did not expect my words to reach Tuskegee. They were intended for a class of men, most of who are my friends, who were not only unjustly assailing you and your work, but were trying to get everybody who had the ear of the public to join them.

"…our radicalism has not accomplished any good thing. …where the largest number of protest meetings have been held during the last ten years, …conditions have constantly grown more unfavorable."

Perhaps you know that for ten years I was identified with a group of thinkers known as radical Negroes. While I still believe in a sane, intelligent and manly protest against the major wrongs from which the race is suffering, I am no longer a radical in the sense that the members of that group are radicals, for two reasons: First, because our radicalism has not accomplished any good thing. In the very places where the largest number of protest meetings have been held during the last ten years, as pointed out in a recent Age editorial, conditions have constantly grown more unfavorable. Secondly, because I have learned that the paramount object of this group is not so much to destroy race prejudice as it is to discredit you and your policies on both sides of the ocean. If this were accomplished, the race's loss would be a hundred-fold greater than yours.

I have been speaking of you and your policies not because you need me to defend either you or them, but because I have been forced to the conclusion that while your method of solving the problem by industry, education and an accumulation of property is a very slow one, after all it is the only theory that has advanced the race since the Emancipation, and I would not be honest to my convictions if I did not advise my people to follow you along the lines indicated.

With best wishes for your continued health and success, I am sincerely yours,

A. Clayton Powell (Sr.)