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Patrick Fox Green

Booker T. Washington vs. W.E.B Du Bois


The ways to attain social equality for African Americans at the turn of the century were debated, each side led by an intellectual leader. W.E.B Du Bois supported African Americans demanding proper rights so that they could advance in society. In his view, postwar America was no more beneficial to African Americans than slavery. He said, The power of the ballot we need in sheer defense, else what shall save us from a second slavery?(Du Bois) On the other end of the spectrum was Booker T. Washington, who supported reconciliation for whites and a brand new slate for both races. He said that African Americans need to concentrate on getting a secure economic future rather than social equality. He said, The opportunity to earn a dollar in a factory is worth infinitely more than the opportunity to spend a dollar in an opera house.(Washington) The greatest obstacle in the way of equality, in Washingtons view, was the economic dependency upon the white race, while Du Bois viewed it as a problem of rights for the black race. The debate still continues today, although much of the civil progress we have today was due to fighting for rights rather than trying to advance ones self economically. The conflict in the debate was how to attain equality. Washington took a rather unconventional approach. He claimed that if African Americans forgave whites for what they have done, and continued to live under their rule while slowly gaining money by the work of their hand, then whites will learn to respect them and they will end up as equals. He said, Give me money to educate the Negro and when he is taught how to work, he will not commit the crime for which the lynching is done.(Wells-Barnett) Du Bois had a completely opposite view. He claimed that African Americans need to do something about the extreme inequality in the social system. He supported a strong education system for African Americans that would help them gain political power. He had a group of freedmen who he educated to be the saviors of the black community that he called the talented tenth. He says, The Negro Race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men. The problem of education then, among Negroes, must first of all deal with the "Talented Tenth.(PBS) This outlines the need for educated blacks to save their own

Patrick Fox Green race. We have no right to sit silently while the seeds are sown for a harvest of disaster to our children black and white. The biggest obstacles in the way of achieving equality were formed after the civil war and slaves were freed. Washington argues that the main problem was that Previous to 1865, these masses had an externally imposed life program For most southern Negroes slavery made true adulthood impossible.(Thorpe) Slaves did not know how to work and be free by themselves. This is why his rhetoric for industrial education rang true for so many. W.E.B Du Bois believed that the biggest impediment for African Americans was their limited education. He wanted African Americans to be able to fight back and he saw that they knew nothing more than what they were taught through slavery. He said, we ourselves are workers, but work is not necessarily education. Education is the development of power and ideal.(Du Bois) He means that without education, freedmen can go nowhere. Although each idealist had positive ideas, many were not what were needed. The Booker Washington philosophy and program were the first positive ones that ne masses of Negroes in America ever had.(Thorpe) This was an inspiration for many, but Washington had unrealistic views about most things. He supported industrial work, but the social system really did not allow for good jobs for African Americans. This gospel of work was no new one for the Negro. It is the Souths old slavery practice in a new dress.(Wells-Barnett) The south had restricting black codes, as well, that brought African Americans back into practical slavery. Racism was also at large. Washington was a proponent of cooperating with whites and not causing conflict or fight. With all of the prejudice, nothing would change, no matter how much money someone had. A critic said, Mr. Washington says: Give me money to educate the Negro, and when he is taught to work, he will not commit the crime for which the lynching is done. Mr. Washington knows that lynching is not invoked to punish crime, but color, and not even industrial education will change that.(Wells-Barnett) Du Bois had a more realistic approach that supported blacks fighting for their rights intellectually and becoming an equal to the white man. However,

Patrick Fox Green Du Bois had his flaws. He does not tell how educated African Americans should go about causing change in the society, just that they should. Major social justice is not executed until the 1960s, 80 years later. In conclusion, Washington had an unrealistic approach as to how the black race should save itself. Du Bois knew that in order to maintain social equality, African Americans need to learn to think intellectually and be educated well. In the words of Du Bois, We want our children trained as intelligent human beings and should be and we will fight for all time against any proposal to educate black boys and girls simply as servants and underlingsThey have a right to know, to think, to aspire.(Du Bois)

Patrick Fox Green

Works Cited Booker T. and W.E.B the Debate. PBS Frontline. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2012. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/race/etc/road.html>. Du Bois, W.E.B. Autobiography. New York: New York International publishing, 1970. Print. pp.249-251 Thorpe, Earl. The Mind of the Negro. Baton Rouge: Ortleib Press, 1961. Print. p. 330 Washington, Booker, T. Up from Slavery, an Autobiography. New York: Doubleday and Company, 1902. Print. pp. 219-224 Wells-Barnett, Ida, B. Booker T. Washington and His Critics. World Today Apr. 1904: n. pag. Print. The negro problem for the negro point of view