Washington vs Dubois

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For many African Americans, the end of the Civil War seemed like the start of a new era, an era defined by Jefferson’s Lockean ideals: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Yet, despite governmental and non-governmental efforts such as the Reconstruction Amendments, public education, and the establishment of the Freedmen’s Bureau, many African Americans still faced the reality of widespread discrimination and segregation. And although many African Americans made economic advancements, their collective voice in society was faint and often ignored. Amidst this bleak situation for African Americans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, two figures emerged as prominent leaders. Booker T. Washington and William Edward Burghardt Du Bois took very different approaches to improving the circumstances of African Americans. Though both perspectives were reasonable, Du Bois provided a better blueprint to bring about political freedom and independence for African Americans, while Washington’s focus on economic equality presupposed that African Americans would continue to work obediently and faithfully in professions that did not require higher education. While it was clear that African Americans were making progress in the quality of their economic lives, their lack of real political power ultimately resulted in a wide and seemingly impossible-to-close gap between the two races. Through education and more diverse and specialized jobs, African Americans become more economically affluent than before. For instance, public school enrollment of in four cotton states increased from 1871 to 1880. This allowed a higher percentage of newly freed slaves to own land over time, from 1% of the total African American population in Georgia in 1874 to 1.6% in 1880. While this indicated a sign of improvement in the economic quality of the lives of African Americans, they continued to be oppressed by the white majority in society. Despite the Fifteenth Amendment’s mandate that the...
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