E. Franklin Frazier’s Black Bourgeoisie was more prophetic than many realized. Frazier, who addressed the burgeoning black middle class, expressed concern about the intra-class conflict vis-a-vis socioeconomic status of black folks. Frazier notes that the black middle class was in a rush by the 1960s to assimilate. During the Harlem Renaissance, even W. E. B. Du Bois “strategically included white judges on panels for their black literary competitions, in hopes that white approval would add luster to black achievements. ” This shift that occurred was not a mass or universal one.
The black middle class was still small and would not be catapulted until after the advent of Affirmative Action. According to the perspective of E. Franklin Frazier, the “Black Bourgeoisie” played an important role among American Negros for decades. Frazier’s study led him to the significant of “Negro Business” and its impact on the black middle class. Education was a major social factor responsible for emergence of the Black bourgeoisie.
By fact, the net total number of the free Negroes in the first generation topped out at 37,245 with an estimated accumulation of 50,000,000 in real and personal wealth before the civil war.
Free Negroes in southern cities undertook businesses in skilled labor such as carpenters, tailors, shoemakers, wheelwrights, bricklayers, butchers, and painters. The failure of the Freedmen’s Bank contributed to the slow development of the black middle class when Blacks put all their money into the Black banks and when they went under only forty percent of deposits were returned. Occupational differentiation is the change in work field for the Black class. A small professional group making up three percent of all workers had gradually become differentiated from the majority of Blacks.
Occupational differentiation had proceeded slowly because Blacks were accustomed to the agriculture field and not only until the migrations to the North were had had they introduced to the industrial centers. In addition the Depression played a role in slowing up the process. Black-owned businesses are primarily service establishments simply because of the refusal on the part of white establishments to provide personal services for Negroes. The debate over true liberalism among blacks still exists.
I have found the upper black middle class to be far more conservative and less active towards civil rights and social policy of late. I am concerned that the black bourgeoisie is willing to shift its focus away from the liberalism that put them in their position for racial acceptance. I believe integration is vital to a liberal society as noted by my neighborhood, friends, and place of employment; however, I do not think the black middle class should play the conservative card that carries with it values, attitudes, and behaviors that do not represent progress for all minority groups. Sure 90% of blacks vote in a solid block for the Democratic Party, but that block is not as tight as it used to be.