This is evident in the manner in which the principal characters of Dr. Bledsoe, Ras the Exhorter, Rinehart, and Tod Clifton are shown following very different concepts and paths to success.
For Dr. Bledsoe, success is to be measured by the acquisition of material wealth and a position in society, both of which could be obtained through playing along with, and kowtowing to, the objectives of the white community. Thus, he adopts education and the white man's goal of educating Negroes as his ladder to success. In stark contrast, Ras the Exhorter envisages the achievement of Black Nationalism or the assertion of Africanism as symbolizing success. Accordingly, Ras sees the use of radical means such as riots as the path to success. Tod Clifton, like Ras, is interested in achieving a better quality of life for his people. However, he differs from Ras in as much as he sees communism or the Brotherhood as the answer to the problems of both white and black communities. Isolated and apart from all these characters is the mysterious, elusive figure of Rinehart. A master of disguises and duplicity, Rinehart seems to represent different things to different people. Therefore, it can be inferred that Rinehart's definition of success is be allowed to survive and prosper by appearing to give people whatever they want.
In the light of the above definitions, it is Dr. Bledsoe who would have considered himself most successful since he does manage to acquire social position as well as wealth. And, perhaps, it is not a coincidence that it is also Dr. Bledsoe who would have been perceived as most successful by the dominant culture's standards. For, not only does Dr. Bledsoe follow the social norms and etiquette of the white man, he also understands that the white community expected the Negro to stay obedient and subservient.
Ellison, R. "Invisible Man." New York: Random House, 1995.
The Civil Rights era was witness to several organized movements that worked to dismantle the practice of segregation and to procure basic civil rights for the black community. These movements were largely distinguished by a difference in political ideology leading to a conflict, at times, between Black Integrationists and Black Nationalists.
The integrationist movement believed that a policy of co-operation with the majority culture was the route to achieving positive social goals for the blacks. However, it must be noted that the basis of this belief stemmed from a fundamental faith in the institution of democracy and democratic processes. The integrationist movement also pursued the political idea that black and white unity must be achieved if America was to fully realize the values of democracy and equality. Thus, this movement advocated that both communities should work towards achieving a closer understanding of the other's culture. Indeed, this is the reason why integrationist leaders believed strongly in empowering the black community through education and greater involvement in the affairs of mainstream America.
The Black Nationalist movement, on the other hand, subscribed to the view that development of a strong racial identity and solidarity was the only way to bring about social change. Therefore, black nationalists promoted the idea that blacks must withdraw from the majority culture and, instead, develop a distinct identity in all walks of life. This meant the creation of a new political consciousness, the development of Negro self-expression through the arts, and the establishing of a distinct culture. In other words, Black Nationalism was based on the idea that black consciousness would lead to a sense of pride, dignity, and self-esteem, which, in turn, would lead to the black community being given its rightful place under the sun. Unfortunately, the call for Black Nationalism was, at times, misinterpreted as a movement towards black militancy and, therefore, as a threat to white supremacy.
Thus, although Black Integrationists and Black Nationalists shared virtually the…