Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Steven A. Gelb, PhD, Chair; Ronn M. Johnson, PhD; Mary Woods Scherr, PhD


African Americans, educational opportunities, historical investigation, Leadership studies, Talented Tenth, transformational leadership, W.E.B. Du Bois


In 1903, W. E. B. Du Bois presented a radical leadership proposal for the transformation of African American life in the United States. His theoretical concept of the “Talented Tenth” emphasized the education and training in leadership of ten percent of the African-American population. This selective group would transform the larger, uneducated segment of the population and lead them to higher levels of social acceptance and independence. This study is a historical investigation into the educational ideas of W. E. B. Du Bois's “Talented Tenth.” It describes the historical factors that led to and influenced Du Bois's development of the “Talented Tenth” strategy, especially his reaction to and criticism of Booker T. Washington's proposals to accommodate the white power structure through diminished educational and social expectations for African Americans. In contrast to Washington, Du Bois argued that justice and necessity required that blacks receive educational opportunities qualitatively equal to those of whites. This study finds that many ideas associated with James Bums's notion of “transformational leadership” were anticipated by Du Bois's earlier work, and that scholarship within the field of leadership would benefit from a more inclusive orientation toward the work of minority scholars such as Du Bois. Du Bois's ideas are analyzed for addressing contemporary problems facing the African American community, and it is concluded that his prescient analyses are still worth reading today. Evidence presented here substantiates not only Du Bois's powerful legacy to African American and general American history, but also shows that the leadership ideas of the “Talented Tenth” were indeed a pioneering conception of Transformational Leadership.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access