Rivalry between Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. DuBois

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Washington and DuBois were iconic figures in American History, and their affiliations significantly influenced the lives of the African Americans. The rivalry between DuBois and Washington was well known to historians in the black community. The two had contradicting views on racial uplift. Washington supported social segregation and disenfranchisement in order to gain education and economic progress. DuBois disagreed with Washington's opinion and championed for racial equality. He was a vivid supporter of the rights of blacks, including the right to vote, get education and civic equality. Their opinions changed the course of the quest for equality, and the opposition played a critical role in fueling the birth of the Civil Rights Movement. As such, no account of black history is complete without examining the rivalry of the two most influential persons to African Americans.

Booker T. Washington Biography

Having been born in slavery, Washington’s life had little promise. He was born on April 5, 1856, in Virginia in Franklin County. His mother was a cook in the slave plantations, and his father was an unknown white man. He was thus forced to work from an early age.  During Booker’s childhood, he encountered poverty, and when he was nine years, he was forced to start working in the salt furnace and the coal mines. Washington had the desire to be educated and thus enrolled in “Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute” while at the same time worked as a janitor to help in payment of school fees.[1]

In 1875 Booker graduated from Hampton University, and he performed excellently, and after civil war, he became a teacher.

Washington co-founded Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama in 1881, and the institution grew enormously. It involved in the training of African Americans in agricultural pursuits. He was a reformer and an educator as well as the principal developer and the first president of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. Booker was an influential spokesman for the black Americans in the period 1895- 1915. He remained to be the head of the institution until his death on 14 November 1915.[2]

He died from congestive heart failure at the age of 59.

W.E.B. Dubois Biography

DuBois was born in in Great Barrington, Massachusetts in 1868 on 23rd February. His parents separated two years after his birth. He was the first individual to go to high school in his extended family. DuBois first went to Fisk University which was a school for the blacks. Several churches paid for his school fees. In 1883, he started to write articles for newspapers including the Freeman and the New York Globe. He graduated from high school and went to Harvard University in 1888 where he got an advanced degree in history. He later joined the University of Berlin until for a PhD but did not have enough funds to complete his studies. DuBois went back to the US and studied at Harvard University where he received his PhD. He married Nina Gomer in 1896. In the same year, he joined the “University of Pennsylvania where he conducted a study for sociological purposes.”[3]

From the research, he concluded that Africa Americans faced hard challenges including lack of education, distraction, crime and poverty. He was offered a job by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1897 due to his groundbreaking studies that covered slavery and the personal lives of the blacks. He taught at Tuskegee University in 1903, but the friction between him and Washington led to the establishment of the Niagara Movement which sought for equality and justice for the blacks. Bois became a director at NAACP in 1910. He also served as the editor of the magazine, The crisis which was published by NAACP. He joined the American Communist Party in 1961, and his final years, he focused on Pan-Africanism.[4]

DuBois died in 1963 in Accra, Ghana, while working on an encyclopedia of the Africana. 

Booker T. Washington vs. W.E.B. Dubois

Washington’s opinions clashed with those of Bois regarding racial equality. Washington and DuBois differed on the philosophy of race relations. They had different views on about the "Atlanta Compromise." Washington advocated for social segregation and disenfranchisement from the whites in order to allow for educational opportunities, economic progress and gain justice in courts. On the other hand, DuBois supported for full and equal rights in the realm of every individual’s life. He deplored conciliatory philosophy and Washington's arguments that blacks were suitable for vocational training.[5] DuBois criticized Washington for his failure to demand equality for the black community as stipulated in the 14th amendment. Washington taught that the blacks would realize economic success if they were to become subordinates to the whites to attain political and economic rights. He believed that the African Americans worked so hard in order to get the financial independence and advance culturally. Subordination would help them gain acceptance and respect in the white community.

Booker had a belief that the best interest of the black people were to come true if people would be educated on how to cultivate the virtues of patience, crafts and industrial skills, as well as in, enterprise, and thrift.[6] Washington contended that the African Americans who were illiterate, impoverished and laborers were to stop their attempts to seek political power and full civil rights but rather cultivate the farming and industrial skills in order to attain economic security. Washington argued that African Americans were to accept discrimination and segregation from the whites with an end motive to acquire culture, wealth gain respect and acceptance among the white society. He believed that the move would play a greater role in breaking the divisions that existed between the white and the black race and eventually culminate in equal citizenship for the blacks. His arguments were reinforced when he delivered a speech on September 18, 1895, where he used the phrase “In all things that are purely social we can be separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.”[7]

DuBois condemned the emphasis that Booker place on vocational skills and said that it was detrimental to academic development and attainment of civil rights. To most blacks, especially those from the south, Washington's sentiments were vastly comforting.    On the other hand, Bois had the country belief which opposed Washington's beliefs. These beliefs made him increase his national prominence as he opposed the "Atlanta Compromise," which was an agreement that indicated that vocational education of the blacks was important than social advantages including political office and higher education.[8] He demanded equality for the blacks and Bois sought to achieve equal rights for the black. His works adamantly opposed the superiority of blacks and supported the rights of women.

The differences between Washington and Dubois is not only evident from their racial equality affiliations and opinions but also lied in their upbringing and education. Washington was born in a slavery family, and he was a freedman after the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation. On the contrary, DuBois was from a free black family and born after the civil war, and therefore he experienced little segregation in his early life.[9] Another difference is also noted for education. Booker went to Hampton Institute where he was trained as a teacher and earned a bachelor’s degree in history. DuBois went to the University of Berlin and earned a PhD at Harvard University. DuBois taught in different institutions and spent most of his academic career at Atlanta University. However, Washington was the head of the Tuskegee Institute for a long time.

Booker T. Washington Success

Washington was one of the most influential black American leader. “He founded the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute which is currently called the Tuskegee University.”[10]

Tuskegee Institute became the leading school in the country, and it was equipped with good buildings and had a huge population of students. He was successful in instilling the virtues of enterprise, patience, and thrift. Washington wrote five books in total which have remained to be informative to the current world. The books include Up from Slavery, The Story of My Life and Work, My Larger Education, The Story of the Negro, and The Man Farthest Down. Washington directed his efforts in advancing and helping the black community.

During his tenure at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, he significantly built the institute, and this made it to one of the world's leading education centers. He vitally directed his energy toward the expansion of educational opportunities for African American students, particularly in the south. In 1900, he established the National Negro Business League.[11] He helped the impoverished and the suffering of black people. Besides, he played a crucial role in promoting health initiatives for African Americans. Washington advised two “America presidents (Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft) on racial matters.” [12]The support for the corporation of races and the stress on educational opportunities were greater achievements. Indeed, washing was a complex person who lived in the precarious era when the blacks called for racial equality. He openly advocated for segregation from the whites in attempts to advance politically and economically.

W.E.B. Dubois Success

W.E.B. Du Bois was an African American activist, sociologist and a teacher who worked to transform the lives of the blacks in the American society. He championed for the liberation of the black community in his writings. One of the groundbreaking writing that touched on social issues is The Souls of Black Folk which has widely been used in African-American studies. His studies on slavery and the life of the African Americas were influential. Through the researches, he explained how it felt like to be a victim of racism. The Souls of Black Folk was a collection of works that evaluated the experience of the African Americans in the white community. The book demonstrated the idea of double consciousness.[13]

He also led to the establishment of the Niagara movement which was vitally charged with the mandate to seek racial equality and justice for the African Americans. His role at NAACP had a huge influence on the lives of the blacks. The editorial role made him cover issues such as race relations and the black culture, and this stood out for his continual endorsement and coverage of women's suffrage. He worked with the organization for 24 years, and he represented the agenda of the organization in the United Nations. He published his book called The Quest of the Silver Fleece which featured the lives of the blacks.[14]

He also accomplished great strides in international and communism issues. His radicalization was prevalent in the public sphere, and he delved into the American communist community. His Encyclopedia Africana was designed to bring a sense of unity to the blacks.

He was an African American activist in the 20th century and the co-founder of the NAACP as well as the support of pan Africanism. His published works on activism were a landmark to the African American community. He was the first African American to earn a PhD from Harvard University in 1895. His work called Philadelphia Negro was his initial account that touched on the lives of the black in the black community. His books were the founding element for African American movement and a cornerstone to the literature of the African Americans. DuBois laid the foundations for the struggle of equality which were later reinforced by intellectuals such as Martin Luther King Jr. He played a leading role in opposing racism which was propelled by the Jim Crow laws. He was a leading role of the black reconstruction of the Harlem Renaissance which occurred from 1918 to mid-1930s.[15]

This was a platform for spreading the views of the blacks. He thus altered the prevailing views about the reconstruction era. His Pan-Africanism prominence helped to fight for the independence of the African colonies from the European powers. Therefore, he was the foremost black leader in the US community.

Conclusion

Washington and DuBois were African-American towering figures on the civil rights movement. They were all intellectuals, writers and educators. However, their opinion about the course of the blacks in the American society differed and led to a division between the African populations. Social and political accommodation was a trademark of Washington in Atlanta Compromise. He was a strong believer in the working ability of the African Americans for them to become productive to the society. On the other hand, Dubois stated that the blacks were to have equal rights and the granted the right to vote and get education. Nevertheless, current historians acknowledge the significant impact that the two figures had not only on the course of the civil rights movement but also on American history.

Biography

Booker, Jackie R., and Wilson J. Moses. "Creative Conflict in African American Thought: Frederick Douglass, Alexander Crummell, Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Dubois, and Marcus Garvey". The History Teacher 38, no. 4 (2005): 555. doi:10.2307/30036729.

Eugene F Provenzo. Du Bois on Education. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002.

Frost, Bryan-Paul, and Jeffrey Sikkenga. History of American Political Thought. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2003.

Howes, Kelly King, and Lawrence W Baker. Reconstruction Era. Detroit: UXL, 2005.

Jaynes, Gerald David. Encyclopedia of African American Society. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 2005.

Johnston, Keith V., and Elwood Watson. "The W. E. B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington Debate: Effects upon African American Roles in Engineering and Engineering Technology". The Journal of Technology Studies 30, no. 4 (2004). doi:10.21061/jots.v30i4.a.10.

Lewis, David Levering. W.E.B. Dubois--The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963, Henry Holt and Company, 2001.

Valelly, Richard M. "Recognizing the True Greatness of Booker T. Washington Robert J. Norrell. Up From History: The Life Of Booker T. Washington. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009. 508 Pp. 54 Illustrations.". Journal of Policy History 22, no. 01 (2010): 110. doi:10.1017/s0898030609990303.

Whiting, Jim. Booker T. Washington. Broomall, Pa.: Mason Crest Publishers, 2010.

Woodburn, James A., and B. F. Riley. "Life and Times of Booker T. Washington". The Mississippi Valley Historical Review 4, no. 1 (1917): 120. doi:10.2307/1886829.

[1]

Woodburn, James A., and B. F. Riley. "Life and Times of Booker T. Washington". The Mississippi Valley Historical Review 4, no. 1 (1917): 120. doi:10.2307/1886829, 17-20.

[2]

Woodburn, James A., and B. F. Riley. "Life and Times Of Booker T. Washington". The Mississippi Valley Historical Review 4, no. 1 (1917): 120. doi:10.2307/1886829, 23-26.

[3]

Eugene F Provenzo. Du Bois on Education. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002, 15-18.

[4]

Eugene F Provenzo. Du Bois on Education. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002. 3-7.

[5] Booker, Jackie R., and Wilson J. Moses. "Creative Conflict in African American Thought: Frederick Douglass, Alexander Crummell, Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Dubois, and Marcus Garvey". The History Teacher 38, no. 4 (2005): 555. doi:10.2307/30036729, 12-14.

[6]

Whiting, Jim. Booker T. Washington. Broomall, Pa.: Mason Crest Publishers, 2010, 45-48.

[7]

Jaynes, Gerald David. Encyclopedia of African American Society. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 2005, 51-57.

[8] Ibid. 17-18.

[9]Johnston, Keith V., and Elwood Watson. "The W. E. B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington Debate: Effects upon African American Roles in Engineering and Engineering Technology". The Journal of Technology Studies 30, no. 4 (2004). doi:10.21061/jots.v30i4.a.10, 17-19.

[10]

Lewis, David Levering. W.E.B. Dubois--The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963, Henry Holt and Company, 2001, 14-19.

[11]

Howes, Kelly King, and Lawrence W Baker. Reconstruction Era. Detroit: UXL, 2005, 7-10.

[12]

Frost, Bryan-Paul, and Jeffrey Sikkenga. History of American Political Thought. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2003, 70-73.

[13] Valelly, Richard M. "Recognizing the True Greatness of Booker T. Washington Robert J. Norrell. Up From History: The Life Of Booker T. Washington. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009. 508 Pp. 54 Illustrations.". Journal of Policy History 22, no. 01 (2010): 110. doi:10.1017/s0898030609990303, 12-17.

[14]

Frost, Bryan-Paul, and Jeffrey Sikkenga. History of American Political Thought. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2003, 34-35.

[15]

Frost, Bryan-Paul, and Jeffrey Sikkenga. History of American Political Thought. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2003, 40-42.

November 13, 2023
Category:

History

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10

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2587

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