Washington Vs. Du Bois

Washington Vs. Du Bois

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Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois, both early advocates of the civil rights movement, offered solutions to the discrimination experienced by black men and women in the nineteenth and twentieth century. Despite having that in common, the two men had polar approaches to that goal. Washington, a man condoning economic efficiency had a more gradual approach as opposed to Du Bois, whose course involved immediate and total equality both politically and economically. For the time period, Washington overall offers a more effective and appropriate proposition for the time whereas Du Bois's approach is precedent to movements in the future. Both have equal influence over African Americans in politics. Washington's proposal excels in reference to education while Du Bois can be noted for achieving true respect from white Americans.
Du Bois urged African Americans to involve themselves in politics. Gaining this power would be essential to immediate beseeching of rights. Political association would prevent blacks from falling behind because "when the Negro found himself deprived of influence in politics, therefore, and at the same time unprepared to participate in the higher functions in the industrial development which this country began to undergo, it soon became evident to him that he was losing ground in the basic things of life" (Doc I). Du Bois also directly challenged Washington when he stated "that the way for a people to gain their reasonable rights is a not by voluntarily throwing them away and insisting that they do not want them" (Doc E). W.E.B. Du Bois goes on to criticize that "that the principles of democratic government are losing ground, and caste distinctions are growing in all directions" (Doc F). All of these political demands are comprehensible but Du Bois desired a radical change; "Negroes must insist continually, in season and out of season" (Doc E). This is close to nagging, which was surely unfavorable among primarily white politicians. The effectiveness of perpetual complaining would steadily decrease. Washington avoids political involvement which in general is a neutral action neither promoting nor causing defacement of the Negro population.
In 1880 the percentage of 5-19 year olds enrolled in school for whites was approximately 60% while the percent of blacks was roughly half that, which was a vast improvement over just thirty years before when black enrollment was around zero (Doc A). Although black students appear to be bettering themselves, it is still quite unfortunate; there may be more black students enrolled but their education system was still below that of white folk.

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This in effect explains why the illiteracy rate of the white population was at 10% while the percentage of the black population unable to read sky-lined at 60% (Doc B). Both Washington and Du Bois recognized the gap but took completely different approaches to achieve a remedy and also had differing views of what necessary education was. Washington believed that if blacks focused their attention on striving economically they would eventually be given the rights they deserved. To do this, he encouraged attending trade schools like the ones which he worked with. The Tuskegee Institute of Alabama, which he founded, was where "no time [was] wasted on dead languages or superfluous studies of any kind". Then he proposed working either industrially or agriculturally since their education would be based on "what is practical" and "what would best fit [the] young people for the work life" (Doc G). Du Bois, on the other hand, had grown up well rounded culturally. A historian specializing in the history of blacks and a renowned sociologist, at the age of 93 he became a member of the communist party and exiled himself to Africa. Du Bois had high hopes for the "Talented Tenth": after thorough education they could succeed. The fight for first class citizenship could be earned through the university educated Negro through the court systems. Although it is a well thought out solution, the number of black college students enrolled was still quite low at the time. He believed along with others, "that industrial education [would] not stand [African Americans] in place of political, civil, and intellectual liberty" (Doc H). It is true that being cultured is important but for the time, labor was the necessity and would bring supposed status.
W.E.B Du Bois, however, is able to surpass Washington in the area of overall respect and morality concerning white folk. Booker T. Washington made a point that if blacks could prove themselves useful, they could achieve their rights. Washington stated, "No race that has anything to contribute to the markets of the world is long in any degree ostracized. It is important and right that all privileges of the laws be ours, but it is vastly more important that we be prepared for the exercise of those privileges. The opportunity to earn a dollar in a factory just now is worth infinitely more than the opportunity to spend a dollar in an opera house". In theory, Washington concluded that in order for African Americans to succeed, it was imperative for them to befriend the white men. Only then would the struggle for blacks end. He continually sounds of begging when stating to the white men: "Casting down your bucket among my people, helping and encouraging them as you are doing on these grounds, and to education of head, hand, and heart… While doing this you can be sure in the future, as in the past, that you and your families will be surrounded by the most patient, faithful, law-abiding, and unresentful people that the world has seen". All this had been said in his Atlanta Compromise Address in 1895 (Doc D). It was also apparent to everyone African American who did not totally agree with Washington's idea that this was a sign of submission for the black race. The submissive part was, if none else, the fact that we were to accept that black people were going to continue to use their hands as a means to be productive to a white society. Many blacks turned away from such a statement and this is where W.E.B. Du Bois came to relieve them. Although Fortune stated, "It is impossible to estimate the value of such a man" (Doc G), Du Bois rejected the philosophy of Booker T. Washington declaring that he was "condemning their race to manual labor and perpetual inferiority". He argues "that the way for a people to gain respect is not by continually belittling and ridiculing themselves" (Doc E). The De Facto segregation, such as a separate water fountain "for colored only" (Doc J) proposed by Washington did alleviate white and black tension but nonetheless was degrading. He presents that "the wisest among my race understand that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremest 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" (Doc D). Barnett criticized that "[Washington], one of the most noted of their own race should join with the enemies" (Doc H). Such attitudes from Washington could truly be appreciated by Southern whites who in no way would want to be equivalent to a Negro.
Although both men approached the topic differently, the advancement of civil rights would not be as far along today if it were not for both simultaneous views. Each needed the other to achieve his agenda. However, the most experienced in dealing with the sensitivity of the prejudices was Washington. He seemingly knew what buttons to push and how far he could push them. Curiously, the year Washington gave his Atlanta Compromise Address in 1895, the number of blacks lynched dropped from 170 the previous year to just above 120. It is also interesting to note that after Du Bois gave his speech about The Niagara Movement in 1905, the numbers began to steadily increase again (Doc C, D, F). Du Bois' approach of "ceaseless agitation, unfailing exposure of dishonesty and wrong" (Doc F) was not ready for the time where Washington is more rational in his gradual approach.
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