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Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois: The Status of Black People in America

W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington were two of the most well-known leaders of the African-American community in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. They, on the other hand, were vehemently opposed to each other’s beliefs on how to improve African-Americans’ lives(Meier, 1988). Disagreements between them on how to solve racial and socioeconomic disparity, the role of African-American leaders, and what the “haves” in black communities should do to aid the “have-nots” are all reflected in current conflicts.

Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), in addition to being an educator and reformer, was one of the most influential black leaders in the United States at the time of his death. For the time being, he advised African-Americans to put up with racism and concentrate on bettering their lives via hard work and financial success(Meier, 1988). Patience, initiative, and caution, as well as education in the crafts, industrial, and agricultural sectors, were among the fundamental concepts he promoted. He also believed in the importance of arts education. His idea was that doing so would result in his being respected by whites while African Americans would be fully recognized as citizens and assimilated into society.

William E. Du Bois (1868-1963), one of the most influential black philosophers and political theorists of his day, contends that Washington’s strategy would only assist to preserve white domination in the globe. Du Bois, who died in 1993, was an ardent advocate of civil rights and political engagement. (He was a founding member of the NAACP.) According to him, “The Talented Tenth,” an elite group of college-educated blacks, may be able to help with societal reform: “Like other races, the Negro Race will be maintained by its brilliant men.” As a result, the first issue that must be handled is the “Talented Tenth,” or the challenge of developing the best Negroes in order for them to guide the masses away from pollution and death.

Because of the disagreement between Washington and Du Bois at the time, African American leaders were divided into two camps: those who supported Washington and those who opposed him. The expression of wrath and outrage in favor of civil rights was a significant concept of Du Bois’ Civil Rights Movement, which began in the 1950s and reached its apex in the 1960s(Meier, 1988). According to historians, the self-help and colorblind Republican/Clarence Thomas/Thomas Sowell side of the black community has stayed tied with Booker T. Washington to this day. This school of thought in Booker T. Washington influenced both the Nation of Islam and Maulana Karenga’s Afrocentrism. However, the latter group contended that deviating from the norm was required in order to achieve greater financial success.

He focuses on the period immediately after the Civil War, with a special emphasis on the role of the Freedmen’s Bureau in Reconstruction. Southern hatred and “national disinterest,” as well as mismanagement and biased courts “in favor of black litigants,” were all blamed for the Bureau’s inadequacies. The Bureau accomplished several important triumphs in addition to the creation of African American schools, which was a huge step forward. The elevation of educator Booker T. Washington to the role of national spokesman for the African-American community after the end of Reconstruction in 1876, according to W.E.B. Du Bois, was the most significant event in African-American history since the end of Reconstruction in 1876. According to Du Bois, the United States’ approach to racial relations is damaging to the race’s long-term progress. The acceptance of segregation and the focus put on material progress in the nation demonstrate Washington’s “old attitude of tolerance and submission.” According to W.E.B. Du Bois in his book The Souls of Black Folk, as a consequence of this strategy, African Americans have lost their voting rights, civic standing, and financial aid for higher education(Johnson, 1937). According to Du Bois, African Americans’ growth is dependent on their “right to vote,” “civil equality,” and “education of youngsters based on their capacity,” among other things.

The author, who is currently teaching in rural Tennessee, reflects on his own experiences as a country schoolteacher before shifting his attention to a critique of American consumerism in Atlanta, a fast rising city. It is not acceptable to utilize schools to teach students how to earn money(Johnson, 1937). In contrast to the reverse, “reduced training demands” should be aligned with “human cultural norms and noble life aspirations,” according to Du Bois. If “Talented Tenth” pupils get an education in an African American university, they may be able to contribute to the reduction of education and the betterment of race relations.

Du Bois’ return to his investigation of rural African American life in the United States is marked with an image of Dougherty County, Georgia as a symbol of the Black Belt. He goes into great detail on the area’s history and present state. Only a small percentage of the Black Belt’s population has found economic success in sectors other than cotton farming. According to Du Bois, the legal framework in the United States, as well as the tenant agricultural system, are just a few steps away from the institution of slavery. The author also investigates African Americans’ religious habits. Beginning with the foundations of African civilisation in Africa, he then follows the tale through slavery to the establishment of the Baptist and Methodist churches in North and South Carolina, respectively, and Virginia. According to him, studying Negro religion is “not only an important, but also an intriguing component [of] the history of the Negro in the United States of America(Johnson, 1937).” Following that, the moral ramifications of slavery are considered.

Du Bois discusses the psychological repercussions of racial prejudice on humans towards the end of the book. Despite his anguish at his child’s death, the father wonders whether it would be better for him to die than raise him in a world where race is everything. Dwight D. Du Bois narrates the story of Alexander Crummel, a black man who battled prejudice while training to be an Episcopal priest in the United States. Du Bois’s “Of the Coming of John” tells the story of a young black man who is granted the chance to attend college. His newfound knowledge, on the other hand, pits him against a southern civilization, and prejudice effectively kills him. Finally, near the conclusion of his book, Du Bois added an essay on African American spirituals, bringing the work to a close(Johnson, 1937). These songs have grown from their African roots to become powerful expressions of the loss, sorrow, and exile that African Americans have faced throughout history. According to Du Bois, this collection of songs is “the most magnificent representation of human life that can be found on this side of the seas.”

Washington distinguished himself from DuBois and many other early twentieth-century African American leaders by his belief that African Americans must remain steadfast in their commitment to the ideals of sacrifice, discipline, delayed gratification, and, most importantly, economic self-sufficiency for their own communities.

Even the most astute members of my community recognize that advocating for social equality is an extreme form of folly; they also recognize that progress toward enjoying all of the benefits that will accrue to us must be the result of an uphill battle, rather than the result of artificial compulsion.” In the past or present, markets have never turned away a race that has something to sell(Johnson, 1937).

It is critical that we have access to all of our legal rights; yet, understanding how to utilize them effectively is even more critical. Making a dollar at a manufacturing plant is now more profitable than incurring expenditures at an opera house. This, as previously stated, is a quotation from Franklin and Starr (1967).

According to Washington, the position needed business and technology knowledge. The African-American community was on its way to financial triumph. Education in the arts, in his perspective, was an afterthought that might be pursued later. Throughout the twentieth century, Washington’s leadership was challenged by new forces that placed less emphasis on human leadership and more emphasis on organizational strength, usurping Washington’s position. Because of W. E. B. DuBois’s foundation of the NAACP in 1909, the nation’s political patronage power, as well as Washington’s scientific and economic goals, were all instantly challenged by the organization. The National Urban League, founded in 1911, posed a direct challenge to the political patronage authority of the United States government in Washington. His writing and studies bore a great deal of fruit, and he lectured at Tuskegee until the end of his life. DuBois’ career as a writer and researcher had remarkable outcomes(Johnson, 1937). Throughout his life, he grew more disillusioned with the United States, believing that the majority of African Americans were being misdirected by the Black upper class, which he referred to as the Black upper class. He moved to Ghana with his family in October 1961.

In 1963, he formally renounced his American citizenship and relocated to Ghana, where he became a citizen of the African country. On August 27, 1963, he was put to rest there after passing away at the age of 95. Rampersad (Rampersad, 1976).

Both individuals recognized the need of instructing African-Americans in the area of information technology. DuBois, on the other hand, advocated for more parental involvement in order to promote the development of the Black race. Currently, technological experts are debating and combining both persons’ points of view.

Washington and Du Bois were products of their day in terms of social, political, economic, intellectual, and cultural components.

W.E.B. Du Bois’ academic background is addressed in detail in Chapter III, which charts his and Booker T. Washington’s maturation over several decades. Detailed investigations of the leaders and academics who influenced their viewpoints on education, race, politics, and economics begin to explain how they both evolved into two of history’s most well-known Black leaders(Johnson, 1937). Both men believed that education was the only way to solve any group’s political, social, racial, and economic challenges, especially African-Americans’.

It is determined to evaluate their educational philosophy and practice. Unlike the Tuskegee and industrial education programs, which followed George Washington’s beliefs, Du Bois is a fervent supporter of education as the most effective way to Black leadership achievement. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

African Americans faced racial prejudice and suffering after the Civil War. After being emancipated from slavery, liberated slaves faced the immense task of creating their own position in society. During this time period, two personalities came to prominence at the pinnacle of their abilities as leaders of competing intellectual groups. Massachusetts’ William Edward Burghardt DuBois and Virginia’s Booker T. Washington had starkly opposite notions about how African Americans should improve their situation in life. Their techniques differed, but they had a similar goal: to improve the lives of African-Americans in the United States.

He was born a slave in Franklin County, Virginia, in the mid-1850s, and spent his formative years there. In the years after his freedom, Washington, like many other African-Americans, felt that obtaining a college degree would be the most efficient way to improve one’s living status(Schrager, 1996). Because of the social segregation that prevailed in the United States, black kids’ educational opportunities were limited. As a consequence, Washington enrolled at Hampton Institute, where he learned about the industrial industry’s inner workings. Rather than emphasizing the intellectual arts, Hampton’s curriculum was meant to assist students develop practical abilities that they could use in the workplace. As a consequence of his time at Hampton, Washington became an advocate for industrial education, and he was crucial in the development of the Tuskegee Normal and Agricultural Institute in Birmingham, Alabama. This mindset was founded on Washington’s belief that helping the community was the most effective way for African-Americans to ensure their financial prospects. After everything is said and done, the person with the talent to do something that the world needs will find his way, regardless of race.

Washington was well aware of the plight of black people in the South, as well as the brutality they faced as a result of their circumstances. According to the White House, black people should abandon their pursuit for voting and civil rights in exchange for a decrease in anti-black violence. As a consequence, blacks in the South were more open to his views than their counterparts in the North. Whites in both the northern and southern hemispheres were ardent supporters of Washington. They lauded his efforts at a time when they were becoming more frustrated with the condition of race relations in the South. The white majority in the South praised his efforts because they perceived them as a complete surrender to segregation and the pursuit of personal gain.

Despite spending more than half of his life in the North, DuBois was considered a free man. Slavery and southern prejudice were not experiences he experienced directly(Schrager, 1996). He went on to become the first African-American to get a PhD from Harvard University after finishing his undergraduate studies at Fisk University. DuBois was motivated to create this book by his belief that the “bright tenth” of the African-American society would one day rise to the top and lead the black masses via their intellectual ability.

DuBois, on the other hand, was a firm believer in black and white equality in all areas of life. Because of his involvement in the Niagara Movement, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and his editorship of The Crisis, a black political publication, DuBois was more politically committed than Washington. Without a doubt, a liberal education is essential for everyone, regardless of ethnicity or nationality. This more harsh attitude delighted some in the northern freemen’s movement.

The issue of black suffrage was one of the most contentious intellectual issues of the day between the two of them(Schrager, 1996). Despite his belief that attaining the right to vote was critical, DuBois argued that voting rights for the poor and ignorant should be denied. He said that economic benefits could only be secured if political power was in place to safeguard them from eroding. Although DuBois praised Booker T. Washington’s “courageous efforts” to develop “Negro craftsmen, businessmen, and property-owners,” he observed that “workingmen and property-owners” are finding it “difficult, under contemporary competitive methods, to safeguard their rights and maintain their existence while being denied the right to vote” (DuBois 68). In contrast to DuBois’ quiet resistance, Washington said that DuBois’ active lobbying was futile and merely served to upset white southerners even more(Schrager, 1996). External or artificial pressure, in my opinion, will not be a major role in the development of the ability to freely enjoy such political rights.

Lynching and other forms of racial violence were important concerns for them both, and they were both enthusiastic about the subject. While Washington valued practical training above a liberal arts education, he understood the need of a liberal arts education (Washington 203). DuBois, who appreciated and respected Washington’s accomplishments, was also a fan of them (DuBois 68). Despite the fact that some of their beliefs were questioned, both DuBois and Washington played important roles in the development of African Americans throughout history.


Meier, A. (1988). Negro thought in America, 1880-1915: racial ideologies in the age of Booker T. Washington (Vol. 118). University of Michigan Press.

Johnson, G. B. (1937). Negro racial movements and leadership in the United States. American journal of Sociology43(1), 57-71.

Schrager, C. D. (1996). Both sides of the veil: Race, science, and mysticism in WEB Du Bois. American Quarterly48(4), 551-586.


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