WEB Du Bois vs. Booker T. Washington: Who was right?
Two great leaders of the black community in the late 19th and 20th century were W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington. However, they sharply disagreed on strategies for black social and economic progress. Their opposing philosophies can be found in much of today's discussions over how to end class and racial injustice, what is the role of black leadership, and what do the 'haves' owe the 'have-nots' in the black community. W.E.B. DuBois was born on February 23, 1868 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He died August 27, 1963 but not before he was known as a historian,professor writer, editor, sociologist and my favorite , the radicalist. Du Bois grew up in a single parent home with no father. He went to schools that had mostly white students. (This I found very intriguing because his attitude was more blacks should be equal no matter what unlike his counter part Booker T. Washington whose attitude seemed to be put whites first.) I also learned that while many speak of Booker T. Washington's illegal and slick ways, Du Bois had been to prison for allowing foreigners to register.
Du Bois argued that, given the opportunity to educate themselves, American blacks would emerge from behind what he referred to as their "veil" of self-conscious "differentness."Dubois and 29 others started a movement that aided in changes for African Americans. This movement was called the Niagara movement and women were allowed to be members. Doing this time Booker T. Washington was noted for keeping the press from printing however, some articles did get out. In 1909, after an outbreak of rioting and murders of Negroes in Springfield, Illinois, a protest meeting was held in New York that led to the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. DuBois was one of the founding members of the organization. The NAACP was made up of of blacks and whites which tried to remove legal barriers to full citizenship for Negroes. The. The NAACP tried to prevent segregation and discrimination.Washington's strategy would serve only to perpetuate white oppression. Du Bois advocated political action and a civil rights agenda (he helped found the NAACP). In addition, he argued that social change could be accomplished by developing the small group of college-educated blacks he called "the Talented Tenth:" At the time, the Washington/Du Bois dispute polarized African American leaders into two wings--the 'conservative' supporters of Washington and his 'radical' critics. The Du Bois philosophy of agitation and protest for civil rights flowed directly into the Civil Rights movement which began to develop in the 1950's and exploded in the 1960's. Booker T. today is associated, perhaps unfairly, with the self-help/colorblind/Republican/Clarence Thomas/Thomas Sowell wing of the black community and its leaders. The Nation of Islam and Maulana Karenga's Afrocentrism derive too from this strand out of Booker T.'s philosophy. However, the latter advocated withdrawal from the mainstream in the name of economic advancement. One of WEB DuBois famous quotes is "One ever feels his two-ness,--an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife,--this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He does not wish to Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa; he does not wish to bleach his Negro blood in a flood of white Americanism, for he believes--foolishly, perhaps, but fervently--that Negro blood has yet a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his...
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