Booker T. Washington, educator, reformer and the most influentional black leader of his time (1856-1915) preached a philosophy of self-help, racial solidarity and accomodation. He urged blacks to accept discrimination for the time being and concentrate on elevating themselves through hard work and material prosperity. He believed in education in the crafts, industrial and farming skills and the cultivation of the virtues of patience, enterprise and thrift. This, he said, would win the respect of whites and lead to African Americans being fully accepted as citizens and integrated into all strata of society.
W.E.B. Du Bois, a towering black intellectual, scholar and political thinker (1868-1963) said no--Washington 's strategy would serve only to perpetuate white oppression. Du Bois advocated political action and a civil rights agenda (he helped found the NAACP). In addition, he argued that social change could be accomplished by developing the small group of college-educated blacks he called "the Talented Tenth:"
picture of W.E.B Du Bois"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." It is the problem of developing the best of this race that they may guide the Mass away from the co...
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...d social status quo of segregation and discriminaton and concentrate instead on self-help and building economic and material success within the black community.
Up From Slavery
Here is the full text of Booker T. Washington 's fine autobiography, published in 1900.
Two Essays by Booker T.
"Signs of Progress Among the Negroes," "Awakening of the Negro" written around the turn of the century can be accessed from this web page; scroll down to 'Washington. '
Booker T. Washington Ambassador and Spokesman
Washington was the first black to be invited to the White House for dinner with a President. The invitation came from Theodore Roosevelt and this article, written at the time by a Howard University professor, deals with this event and conveys the very powerful image of Washington in the eyes of ten million black Americans during the turn of the century.
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