NCSU AFS 344 - The Emergence of African-American Leaders in American Society

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African American Leaders 1 The Emergence of African American Leaders in American Society Arthur C Watson Manda Rosser Texas A M University Introduction Since the study of leadership and the development of leadership theories began in the mid 1800s and the early 1900s the primary focus was on Caucasian males The Great Man Theory Situational Theory and many other leadership theories are surrounded by white men they are written by white men and they are based on white men Until the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s there were very few minority leaders in the forefront However in recent decades there has been an emergence of minority leaders Using history prominent figures and early theories this paper will examine the manifestation of African American leaders This writing will also discuss the salient theories and leadership styles that may typically be associated with African Americans At the conclusion of this paper the reader should have a better understanding of how African American leaders are strong effective and are contributing greatly to society Purpose and Objectives The purpose of this study was to conduct a thorough review of the literature related to leadership theory and models from the African American Perspective The objectives were as follows 1 To examine the historical perspective of the development leadership theory 2 To consider the influence current theory has on the African American Population 3 To discusses different African American leaders and their contributions to American society Contributors include WEB DuBois and Booker T Washington Data for this study was gathered through a library search at Texas A M University An internet search was also conducted with the same search terms The databases and most articles were accessed online Books and additional materials were collected through the library print resources Procedures Findings The Emergence of African American Leaders in American Society The history of African Americans in the United States of America is fascinating yet full of complexities Originally brought from the continent of Africa by European settlers African Americans began their tenure in the U S as slaves However over time with the assistance of noted strong willed African Americans and the more liberal white American citizens African Americans began to realize their value and intellect This realization brought about a change in the mind set of blacks in America Having a new frame of mind African Americans began to take a stand against the prejudices and injustices that beleaguered them Leadership in the African American community emerged despite the hardships the minority group faced Although not seriously studied in leadership theories until after the Civil Rights movement of the African American Leaders 2 1960s African American leaders have brought much to American society through education business politics and arts and entertainment This paper will focus on the emergence of leadership of African Americans However before an in depth discussion of leadership can begin a definition of leadership needs to be identified Different theorists have attempted to define leadership over the years There are almost as many different definitions of leadership as there are persons who have attempted to define the concept Bass 1990 p 11 Northouse 2004 says the following about the definitions of leadership Despite the multitude of ways that leadership has been conceptualized the following components can be identified as central to the phenomenon of leadership a Leadership is a process b leadership involves influence c leadership occurs within a group context and d leadership involves goal attainment Based on these components the following definition of leadership will be used in the text Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal p 3 For the purpose of this paper Northouse s 2004 definition of leadership will be used EARLY LEADERSHIP THEORIES Many of the early leadership theories and leadership styles excluded African Americans One of these theories is the Great Man Theory The Great Man Theory was studied as early as 1869 Influenced by Galton s study of the hereditary background of great men several early theorists attempted to explain leadership on the basis of inheritance Bass 1990 p 37 Prior to the mid twentieth century the Great Man Theory held sway in the minds of those seeking to define that most elusive quality leadership Because there was consensus that leaders differed from their followers and that fate or providence was a major determinant of the course of history the contention that leaders are born not made was widely accepted not only by scholars but by those attempting to influence the behavior of others Cawthon 1996 p 44 The Great Man Theory supports the notion that humans cannot develop talents they do not have Cawthon 1996 No matter how great their desire to learn unless they possess certain extraordinary endowments unless they possess a talent that can be nurtured and developed they will not be successful in their attempts to lead Cawthon 1996 p 45 During the time when the Great Man Theory was initially developed mid 1800s racial tensions were running rampant The thought that a Negro could be a great man a leader was almost inconceivable For many commentators history is shaped by the leadership of great men Bass 1990 Consequently the great men that are named in history articles and studies are Caucasian Bass 1990 contends that For the romantic philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche a sudden decision by a great man could alter the course of history Thomas Jefferson s decision to purchase Louisiana for example To William James 1880 the mutations of society were due to great men who initiated movement and prevented others from leading society in another direction The history of the world according to James is the history of Great Men they created what the masses could accomplish Carlyle s essay on heroes tended to reinforce the concept of the leader as a person who is endowed with unique qualities that capture the imagination of the masses The hero would contribute somehow no matter where he was found Dowd African American Leaders 3 maintained that there is no such thing as leadership by the masses The individuals in every society possess different degrees of intelligence energy and moral force and in whatever direction the masses may be influenced to go they are always led


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NCSU AFS 344 - The Emergence of African-American Leaders in American Society

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