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Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois – leaders with different ideas but common goal

Updated on August 24, 2012
Booker T. Washington and WEB Dubois
Booker T. Washington and WEB Dubois

Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois debate– great people who fought for the rights of blacks in America

Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois offered different strategies - Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois, the two prominent American leaders had different opinions concerning American life between 1865 and the present. They had differing ideas for a common goal. Booker T. Washington the spokesman of the black race believed in industrial and agricultural labor when his counterpart had a different opinion. W.E.B. Du Bois’s policy of the acquiring intellect through higher education and securing first-class citizenship for the African American race was also a bone of contention between them. Both these leaders dedicated their lives to find a way to acquire rights for the American blacks. Both of them strived for the same goal. They had nothing common except for the common goal. Their ideas differed and their paths were at poles. Washington and DuBois continued debating over various issues until the death of Washington's in 1915. They traveled through different routes for reaching a common destination. The rivalry between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B DuBois is very popular among scholars and historians. During the period from 1895 to 1915, there were numerous schools of thought concerning how African Americans were going to acquire first-class citizenship in America. First-class citizenship of those days was characterized by three aspects political power, civil rights, and the higher education of black youth.

Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois comparison

Booker T. Washington was the most prominent leader among black activists until W.E.B DuBois appeared in the scene. His ideas on “racial uplift” for the people were considered as more conciliatory than what was found in the definite interests of blacks inAmerica.Washington’s views on racial uplift were that he offered black acquiescence in disenfranchisement and social segregation provided whites support the concept of black progress in agriculture, economics and education. ForWashingtonagriculture was one of the most crucial terms in racial uplift theory. He was the one who found Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in black beltAlabama. He had such a kind of political influence that he could convince whites of the North and the South to accept his theory. W.E.B. DuBois strongly disagreed the opinions ofWashington's. He however respected Washington as the prominent leader who upholds the cause of the black race.

Black rights

W.E.B. DuBois was a strong supporter of the rights of blacks everywhere. He supported civic equality, right to vote and education. We can see DuBois criticizingWashingtonregarding his stand in many crucial topics of contemporaryAmerica. In The Souls of Black Folk he expresses his disagreement withWashingtonpoint on civil rights issues. He says, "One hesitates, therefore, to criticize a life which beginning with so little, has done so much. And yet the time is come when one may speak in all sincerity and utter courtesy of the mistakes and shortcomings of Mr. Washington's career as well as of his triumphs, without being captious or envious, and without forgetting that it is easier to do ill than well in the world" (DuBois, 1973). According to DuBois "but they are absolutely certain that the way for a people to gain their reasonable rights is not by voluntarily throwing them away and insisting that they do not want them; that the way for a people to gain respect is not by continually belittling and ridiculing themselves; that, on the contrary, blacks must insist continually, in season and out of season, that voting is necessary to modern manhood, that color discrimination is barbarism, and that black boys need education as well as white boys (DuBois, 1973)."

Booker T. Washington vs. W.E.B. Du Bois

Booker T. Washington was of the opinion that education is meant for real life jobs and not for demanding equality from the whites. He never demanded equality or rights and happily accepted his stand as a black. He attempted to receive help from whites and wanted blacks to happily accept their place as blacks on earth. WEB Dubois however had a very different opinion concerning education. He had the exact opposite opinion. According to him, education is not only for securing a job, it do also serve as a means by which blacks can uplift themselves and acquire freedom, rights and equality. He gave importance to the strategy called the gradualist political strategy, which was highly contradictory to the policy of Booker T. Washington. Idealism was the most important feature of the ideas of Du Bois. He believed that “all races are generally equal and must be treated the same way, held that when Blacks achieved civil rights, they would be able to compete effectively with whites for educational opportunities, jobs and eventually the full benefits of American citizenship (DuBois, 1973).”

Booker T. Washington
Booker T. Washington

Thoughts and actions of Booker T. Washington

The first leader who jumped into the field for supporting the negatively privileged blacks was Booker T. Washington. He desired for the good to be accomplished in entire black people. He was of the opinion that that the blacks should work for themselves. According to Booker T. Washington the blacks would not be successful in the society if they demand equality. Help from the whites would make blacks prosper. He desired the have blacks to be trained and ready for society and real life situations. He demanded education for the blacks, as they would be equipped to acquire job and do it properly. Booker T. Washington was a great orator who spoke to both blacks and whites. He discussed with the whites how blacks are disadvantaged and stereotyped. Simultaneously he encouraged the blacks to come to the mainstream of the society. He exhorted them not to hide in the whites shadows and to break out and come to realize their dreams and improve their political, social and economic status. Booker T. Washington also dreamt a world where blacks actively participate in society affairs.

WEB Dubois
WEB Dubois

Thoughts and actions of WEB Dubois

The other great leader WEB Dubois focused on the exact opposite things. His strategy encouraged blacks to strive and achieve everything in the world including equality and freedom. WEB Dubois wanted blacks to be just like whites. Blacks should enjoy all rights as whites and should play a major role in the society. He desired blacks to have high education and IQ, which they can acquire through reading, writing and other aspects of education. According to him, education should bring about overall development among the blacks, which would make them really comparable to the whites. Dubois wanted blacks to have intellectual advances and prosperity in their race. Dubois believed that the smarter and educated the blacks become, the more equal they are with the whites. He was not satisfied with economic security like Booker T. Washington. He pointed out that economic security was not enough for the blacks. They should rather become educated and acquire the status of the whites. Dubois considered the ideas of Booker T. Washington's, however; he took them a step further. When Booker T. Washington wanted the blacks to have opportunities without inequality, Dubois demanded the full package. He wanted blacks to have the opportunities and also wanted blacks to have the full rights lacking nothing. Booker T. Washington demanded progress for the blacks, not equality. According to W.E.B. DuBois “We claim for ourselves every single right that belongs to a free American, political, civil and social, and until we get these rights we will never cease to protest and assail the ears ofAmerica (DuBois, 1973).” Booker T. Washington on the other hand was of the opinion that “The wisest among my race understand that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremist 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” (Washington, 1899).

Booker T. Washington and WEB Dubois (discrimination and segregation in America)

Booker T. Washington and WEB Dubois on racism - Apart from this, Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Dubois differed much in their attitude towards discrimination and segregation inAmerica. The philosophy concerning the nature of racism also differed for them. Both of them were relativist and agreed with the fact that the “servile and inferior status of Blacks inAmericawas due to nurture not nature” (DuBois, 1973).Washingtongave importance to the moral and intellectual drawbacks of black culture and took a proactive stand. W.E.B. DuBois, on the other hand, firmly focused on White racism and maintained a reactive approach. Du Bois was of the belief that “racism was the result of irrational hatred and, through litigation, education (of Whites), and activism, Blacks would one day force Whites to give them their Constitutional rights of equal treatment under the law (DuBois, 1973).” Washington however thought that the “road to equality lay not in antagonism and protest, but by Black people living virtuous lives and becoming productive and model citizens via their industry, by providing goods and services, first, for their own people, and eventually, for all Americans and all humanity (Washington, 1899).” Both Booker T. Washington and WEB Dubois stepped into the political arena when racism, oppression and discrimination ruled every corners ofAmerica. Both of them helped resolve the racism issue to a great extent. Both of them helped to control though with conflicting policies. The names of these two leaders, who moved towards a common goal with differing ideas, are never forgotten.


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      Phoebe Pike 

      8 years ago

      A very informative hub. Awesome job. You clearly did your research.


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