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Primary Source: Other Author
The Talented Tenth
Henry Lyman Morehouse

Morehouse, Henry Lyman. 1896. "The Talented Tenth." The American Missionary, 50:6 (June): pp.182-183. Morehouse originally published the essay (under the same title) in the periodical, The Independent, v.48 (23 April 1896): p.1.

Online Source:
The full text of The American Missionary, Volume 50, No. 6, June 1896, is available at Project Gutenberg: download page (various formats, including plain text and html).

R. Williams' Notes:
Rev. Henry Lyman Morehouse, for whom Morehouse College came to be named, was a White Northerner, who held positions as Corresponding Secretary and Field Secretary for the American Baptist Home Mission Society (see the N.Y. Times obituary published 6 May 1917, p.19). In the short piece presented below verbatim and in its entirety, Morehouse can be read as promoting the importance of liberal arts education for African Americans. Coming in the aftermath of Booker T. Washington's 1895 Atlanta Exposition speech, Morehouse's essay was intended to counterbalance what some at the time believed was a predominant focus on industrial education for African Americans. See Joy James's Transcending the Talented Tenth: Black Leaders and American Intellectuals, pp.16-17 (NY: Routledge, 1997).

DuBois's "The Talented Tenth" essay is available on this site.


In the discussion concerning Negro education we should not forget the talented tenth man. An ordinary education may answer for the nine men of mediocrity; but if this is all we offer the talented tenth man, we make a prodigious mistake. The tenth man, with superior natural endowments, symmetrically trained and highly developed, may become a mightier influence, a greater inspiration to others than all the other nine, or nine times nine like them. Without disparagement of faithful men of moderate abilities, it may be said that in all ages the mighty impulses that have propelled a people onward in their progressive career, have proceeded from a few gifted souls. Sometimes these have been "self-made" men, so-called, whose best powers were evoked by rare opportunities. Oftener, they have been men of thoroughly disciplined minds, of sharpened perceptive faculties, trained to analyze and to generalize; men of well-balanced judgments and power of clear and forceful statement.
It is this talented tenth man of our colleges that in after years reflects more honor on his alma mater than the other nine; it is this tenth man that is the recognized leader in his profession and the leader of public opinion. To him, rather than to the other nine, the many look for suggestion and advice in important matters. He is an uncrowned king in his sphere.
This being true, I repeat that not to make proper provision for the high education of the talented tenth man of the colored people is a prodigious mistake. It is to dwarf the tree that has in it the potency of a grand oak. Industrial education is good for the nine; the common English branches are good for the nine; but that tenth man ought to have the best opportunities for making the most of himself for humanity and God.
The powers of this talented tenth man are often latent; unsuspected by others and even by their possessor, and are evoked only under favorable conditions, sometimes comparatively late in the youthful period of life. In a symmetrical course of study calculated to bring into exercise every mental faculty, somewhere, as by a touchstone, the particular aptitude of the pupil may be discovered, the secret springs of power be opened; and the man, having discovered himself, leaps forward to pre-eminence among his fellows. Scores of such men and women are among the students in the schools for the colored people of the South. A mere common education will not disclose their uncommon powers; they need the test of the best. And somewhere, at several central points at least, provision should be made for the higher education of the talented tenth as well as ordinary education for the other nine.
The great need of the colored people of the South is wise leadership along all lines of development; men of large and comprehensive views acquired by contact and communion with the world's great thinkers; such men are needed to-day even more than nine times as many with a little more practical knowledge concerning the use of the saw, the jack-plane and the blacksmith's forge. In our educational work for the colored people, therefore, proper provision should be made for the talented tenth.--Dr. Morehouse in The Independent.
[End of original text.]  


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