Booker T. Washington And W.E.B. Du Bois Essay, Research Paper
During the time between 1877 and 1915, black Americans experiences many social and economic and political difficulties. Many African Americans supported the program of Booker T. Washington, the most prominent black leader of the late 19th and early 20th century, who counseled them to focus on modest economic goals and to accept temporary social discrimination. Others, led by the African-American intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois, wanted to challenge segregation through political action. Washington and Du Bois both have valid strategies; Washington believing that blacks could advance themselves faster through hard work than by demands for equal rights, Du Bois declaring that African Americans must speak out constantly against discrimination.
During the 1870 s, the principle of segregation by race extended into every area of Southern life, from railroads to restaurants, hotels, hospitals and schools. Any area of life that was not segregated by law was segregated by custom and practice. In 1873 the Supreme Court found that the Fourteenth Amendment (citizenship rights not to be abridged) conferred no new privileges or immunities to protect African Americans from state power. In 1883, furthermore, it ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment did not prevent individuals, as opposed to states, from practicing discrimination. And in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) the Court found that “separate but equal” public accommodations for African Americans, such as trains and restaurants, did not violate their rights.
Cases such as there brought up new voices advocating civil equality, and the strategies by which they are achieved. One of these voices was that of Booker T. Washington, an educator and the most prominent black leader of his day. He grew up as a slave in Franklin County, Virginia, born to a white slave-holding father and a slave mother. In his famous Atlanta Compromise Address, Booker T. Washington used aphorism cast down your bucket as a metaphor for deserting racist ideas. He stated that it is only in the South that a negro is given a man s chance in the commercial world, that the Negro race can only succeed until they learn dignity from menial farm labor. He supported the idea that a negro can only survive through submission, that social equality cannot be achieved through assertiveness, but rather by earning it. Washington wanted blacks to try and get along in society. He encouraged blacks to become educated and to work in agriculture and industry, to accept their second-class status in American society. Washington wanted blacks to stay submissive until the time was right
Many of Du Bois theories were in response to the writings of Booker T. Washington. Washington believed that blacks in America needed pride in themselves in order to rise in a white dominated society. His concern was for solidarity and self-help. Du Bois agreed with him in some aspects but had a different prescription for curing the ills of the black community. Washington called for Negroes to give up higher education and politics in order to concentrate on gaining industrial wealth. Du Bois disagreed. He believed that only though education could blacks gain status and that Washington’s idea promoted black submission to whites.
Du Bois felt that assimilation was the best means of treating the discrimination against blacks. Education was the key to a diverse, multicultural society. “If the meaning of modern life cannot be taught at Negro hearthsides because the parents themselves are untaught then its ideals can be forced into the centres of Negro life only by the teaching of higher institutions of learning and the agency of thoroughly educated men,” wrote Du Bois. Du Bois was a well-respected intellectual and a leader of the NAACP in which he worked to reach the goals of education and peaceful resolution between races. Du Bois had a very different plan than for the struggle for black equality. Du Bois felt that the black leadership of the time, which was mainly Washington. Du Bois felt that Washington’s plan would cause blacks to give up “First, political power, Second, insistence on civil rights, Third, higher education of Negro youth… While Dubois respected Washington and his accomplishments, he felt that blacks needed political power to protect what they had worked for.
Booker T. Washington An W.E.B. Du Bois shared different views on poverty and discrimination faced by black Americans. Despite these conflicts, they paved the way for future institutions and organizations that protect the civil rights of African Americans.