Booker T Washington vs. W.E.B Dubois, Two Different Styles of African American Leadership

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In the early history of the civil rights movement two prominent African American leaders, Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois arose to accomplish one goal, education for all African Americans. During the turn of the century, between the years 1895 and 1915 there were many theories on how African Americans were going to achieve first-class citizenship. With two separate views on how to accomplish this goal, the African American community was split in half on who to support. While Booker T. Washington believed in industrial and agricultural labor, W.E.B. Du Bois proposed a strategy of pursuit through higher education in order to gain first-class citizenship for the African American race.

Born the son of a slave, Booker Taliaferro Washington was considered during his time to be the spokesman of the African American race. Washington believed that if African Americans focused their attention on striving economically, they would eventually be given the rights they were owed. With this in mind, he encouraged blacks to attend trade schools where they could learn to work either industrially or agriculturally. At his famous Atlanta Exposition Address in Atlanta he declared, "Our greatest danger is that, in the great leap from slavery to freedom, we may overlook the fact that the masses of us are to live by the productions of our hands and fail to keep in mind that we shall prosper in the proportion as we learn to dignify and glorify common labor, and put brains and skill into the common occupations of life" (Humanities Washington).

Washington’s suggestion was one that the Negro race was familiar with. The southern and northern whites accepted his plan because it acknowledged the inferiority of the black race. The Negro "Okayed" it b...

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... households. Calling on the talented tenth, Du Bois argued that if the top ten percent of African Americans were schooled and trained, they could go back into their communities and help pull the other ninety percent, who weren't eligible to go to school, up (The Talented Tenth). Both, Du Bois and Washington dedicated their lives to finding a way to gain rights for the American Negro. Each of these intellectual individuals dedicated their lives to this one goal. However, it seems that W.E.B Du Bois was more logical in his proposition for the advancement of African Americans. He aimed straight for success, the success that the blacks well deserved and did not accept inferiority. I strongly agree that intelligence, no matter what the condition or time, is the key, but as Mr. Du Bois put it, "Education must not simply teach work—it must teach life" (The Talented Tenth).

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