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Charles Banks

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Charles Banks, the subject of this engaging biography, was a well-known African American leader whose reputation and influence extended beyond his native Mississippi and the all-black town of Mound Bayou that he transformed into a highly visible symbol of black progress. Born in 1873 in Clarksdale, Mississippi, Banks spent his entire life in the state during an era of mounting racial discrimination and violence. That he became a successful entrepreneur and banker, revered by blacks and respected by many whites, was an extraordinary achievement. This important book explores that achievement with great skill and sensitivity. Organized rationally and written in clear, straightforward prose, the book is based on deep and wide-ranging research in both primary and secondary sources. It places Banks in a broad historical context and combines descriptive narrative and astute analysis to present a thorough and balanced portrait of the man and his career that underscores both his laudable traits and his obvious flaws.

Although Banks resembled those blacks whom W. E. B. Du Bois labeled the "talented tenth," his strategy for the survival and progress of black people differed dramatically from that advocated by Du Bois. Banks embraced the philosophy of uplift through self-help, racial cooperation, and economic development popularized by Booker T. Washington of Tuskegee, Alabama. A tireless promoter of the Tuskegee idea and a superb organizer whose career exemplified that idea, he never allowed defeats and reverses to diminish his optimism. For many years an official of Washington's National Negro Business League, Banks was a key member of the so-called Tuskegee Machine, a national network of "lieutenants" who served as Washington's eyes and ears. These lieutenants kept Washington in touch with the black masses at the state and local levels, defended him against his detractors, and acted as his spokesmen and promoters in various sections of



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