African American History Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois

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African-American History,
Spring 2012 Weekender
Analytical Essay #2

Question: Compare and contrast the evolving philosophies and organizational approaches of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois. Viewing them in the context of the times their individual programs were advanced, what were the merits and drawbacks of each individual’s program? And, which (if any) aspect of these programs are useful and/or detrimental in the current struggles of black Americans?

Booker T. Washington was born a slave in the south, and W. E. B. Dubois was born free in the North. Their different births and upbringings would set the controversial stage for two men who were great leaders of the black community in the 19th and 20th centuries. They both advocated for civil rights, but each had contrasting ideas and strategies on how to overcome the daily discrimination that black men, women, and children faced as a people. Washington encouraged blacks to evolve through patience and self-discipline. He promoted an indirect approach to social and political acceptance through economic advancement. Dubois, who was twelve years younger than Washington, was more radical and direct in his approach to end racial oppression. He believed blacks should demand their constitutional and political rights. Essentially, the two had very different views of what manhood meant. Washington believed that with an industrial education, a man could have a business and provide a living for his family and the future of his generation. Dubois, on the other hand, was in favor of a liberal arts education and argued inclusion and believed that a man shouldn't have to bow and conform to the wishes of white society. (Class Notes, March 17, 2012) In the context of the times, Washington’s strategies offered more merit to blacks while aspects of Dubois’ program would prove more damaging in the 1900s but more useful in the future struggles of black Americans.

The temperament of the times can be found in a quote by Henry Grady, an editor of the Atlanta Constitution in 1887, who stated “The supremacy of the white race of the South must be maintained forever, and the domination of the negro race resisted at all points and at all hazards— because the white race is the superior race. This is the declaration of no new truth. It has abided forever in the marrow of our bones, and shall run forever with the blood that feeds Anglo- Saxon hearts.” (Darlene Clark Hine, et al., The African-American Odyssey, p. 352) This quote is evidence to the war that would continue to be waged against blacks. Between 1875 and 1900 African Americans faced their lowest point or the Nadir of Black Life in America. Blacks were still considered intellectually, morally, and culturally inferior to whites. More blacks were killed after slavery because of the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery (on paper), the 14th Amendment which granted equal rights and due process (on paper), and the 15th Amendment which gave the right to vote to men (black and white). In the north, big Industrial businesses boomed. The Republicans became tired of the Negro question "what are you going to do with these blacks"? While, in the south, Democrats wanted to reestablish southern dominance. They were the party of white supremacy, the Klu Klux Klan, the “master”, and the southern planters’ elite. (Class Notes, March 16, 2012) The plight of blacks to be treated as equal citizens was not at the forefront of the general public. Demoralizing African Americans through brutality and discrimination took center stage and was directly related to social power, economics, and politics. White supremacy kept creating new legislation and re-creating the political structure to counter any strategies by blacks to emerge in these areas. Because blacks were considered inferior, whites had to keep them away from the white society. Separate but equal for blacks and whites translated to unwritten subservient etiquette...
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