W.E.B. Dubois & Booker T. Washington

At a time when the Black community is being afforded a free status, but not one
of equality, many leaders arise out of the woodwork to appeal to the white governing
body for social equality. The transition from the ninetieth century to the twentieth
century gives birth to two of these leaders, Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois.
These two men are both working to achieve a common goal, but the roads on which
they’re each traveling to get there differ significantly. Booker T. Washington and W.E.B.
Du Bois offer different strategies for dealing with the problems of poverty and
discrimination facing Black Americans. Booker T. Washington’s gradualism stance
gives him wide spread appeal among both blacks and whites, although W.E.B. Du Bois
has the upper hand when it comes to ideology dealing with economic prosperity and
education amidst Blacks.
Product of slavery, Reconstruction, and Black codes (Roark, et al p.616),
Washington favors the humble – ask nicely; appreciate what you’re given; and say “thank
you” – approach to obtaining social equality. Washington addresses the issue with
meticulous caution, in doing so he not only comes across as an advocate of Blacks
gaining “all privileges of the law”(D), but also of Blacks being prepared “for the exercises
of these privileges.” By taking this approach Washington is gaining the appeal within the
Black audience as well as the white community. In contrast to this seemingly effective
stance, Du Bois stands on the platform of ask, but ask incessantly with a loud and firm
voice. Du Bois even goes as far as to say that if the Black community wants social
equality they must simply complain. “Ceaseless agitation”(F) he feels will do more in the
fight for equality than “voluntarily throwing away”(E) the reasonable rights they are
entitled to.
The opposing approaches of Washington and Du Bois are far from unnoticeable,
and receive recognition from both sides. Whether or not these two dynamic leaders are
intentionally attacking each other, one can only speculate that the vast differences in
methodology creates tension within the arena. In Washington’s “Atlanta Compromise
Address”(D) he comments that the “wisest among my race understand that the agitation of
questions of social equality is the extremist folly, and that progress in the enjoyment of
all the privileges that will come to us must be the result of severe and constant struggle
rather than of artificial forcing.”(D) This statement, delivered at a time when Blacks and
whites have separate water fountains(J), almost one-hundred and forty Black people were
lynched(C), and forty-five to sixty percent of Blacks over the age of nine are illiterate(B),
directly condemns the blunt complaining with which Du Bois is aligning himself.
Return criticism is illustrated in The Souls of Black Folk, written by Du Bois in 1903.
“The way for a people to gain respect is not by continually belittling and ridiculing
themselves; that, on the contrary, Negroes must insist continually, in season and out of
season”(E) as written by Du Bois seems to be a direct response to the 1895 infamous
address of Washington. With Jim Crow laws in effect, Du Bois position seems to be the
more fitting and proper of the two. The ideology of Washington promotes unity “in all
things essential to mutual progress,”(D) but in comparison to Du Bois stand point in the
early twentieth century he comes across as merely a sell out. Thus, W.E.B. Du Bois is
the more highly regarded and esteemed of the two based on his fervent advocating of
Black rights.
The impending question plaguing the Black community is that of equal
opportunity within the realms of education. Both Washington and Du Bois receive
college level education’s, but Washington’s is merely vocational training versus the
Harvard Ph.D. held by Du Bois. Advocacy of Washington for industrial education is
grounded in his training. Washington sees the training for “what is practical” and “what
will best fit”(G) as teaching the arts of “farming, blacksmithing, carpentering”(G) to Blacks.
These things are good, but they result in Negroes “spending time studying about the
things which might had been or might be,”(I) according to historian Carter Woodson.
Washington also receives contempt from activist Ida Wells Barnett, who regards his
“industrial education for the Negro” as his “hobby”(H). Du Bois, on the other hand,
acknowledges the efforts being made to “curtail the educational opportunities of the
colored children”(F) and he sees “the most meager chance for developing. . .exceptional
men”(E) within the Black community. Du Bois observations are justified by the landmark
court case of Plessy v. Ferguson, where the notion of separate but equal is deemed
constitutional. In response to these things Du Bois states bluntly that “ black boys need
education as well as white boys.”(E) Washington and Du Bois voice their platforms on
education while no more then thirty to thirty-five percent of Blacks between the ages of
five to nineteen are enrolled in school(A). The statistic causes Washington to be shunned
once again for his stance, and Du Bois is again embraced for his radical stance.
Both men realize the impending crisis and the deleterious effects apathy will have
on the future if no one steps up to the plate. Although the varying approach and ideology
of Washington and Du Bois creates some internal sectional division, they succeed in
perpetuating the Civil Rights Movement. Washington, being the more passive activist by
nature, is regarded by some Black historians as a traitor. The radical adversary of
legalistic approach, Du Bois, wins the majority of the Black community with his
aggressive ideology.
I. Introductory ¶
A. free but not equal
B. transition from 19th to 20th century
C. common goal
D. different strategies
E. thesis: Booker T. Washington’s gradualism stance gives him wide spread appeal
among both blacks and whites, although W.E.B. Du Bois has the upper hand when
it comes to ideology dealing with economic prosperity and education amidst Blacks.
II. Gradualism ¶
A. Washington’s approach ~ slavery/Reconstruction/Black codes
1. humble
2. document D
3. favor with both races
B. Du Bois approach
1. complain incessantly
2. document E
3. document F
III. Ideology ¶
A. Washington’s compromise ~ document D
1. quote document D
B. conditions at time of statement ~ document B/C/J
C. The Souls of Black Folk
1. quote document E
2. Jim Crow laws
D. comparison between Washington & Du Bois
VI. Education ¶
A. Washington & Du Bois education
B. industrial education
1. document G
2. quote from Woodson document I
C. Du Bois
1. document E
2. Plessy v. Ferguson ~ separate but equal
3. document A
V. Conclusion ¶
A. thesis: Washington, being the more passive activist by nature, is regarded by some
Black historians as a traitor. The radical adversary of legalistic approach, Du Bois,
wins the majority of the Black community with his aggressive ideology.
Bibliography
none
Word Count: 1137

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