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Beliefs and Views of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois

By dkirkham May 08, 2006 1057 Words
The different methods Booker Taliaferro Washington and William Edward Burghardt Du Bois used to try and obtain racial equality reminds me of the Aesop's Fable - The Hare and the Tortoise: A hare one day ridiculed the short feet and slow pace of the Tortoise, who replied, laughing: "Though you be swift as the wind, I will beat you in a race." The Hare, believing his assertion to be simply impossible, assented to the proposal; and they agreed that the Fox should choose the course and fix the goal. On the day appointed for the race the two started together. The Tortoise never for a moment stopped, but went on with a slow but steady pace straight to the end of the course. The Hare, lying down by the wayside, fell fast asleep. At last waking up, and moving as fast as he could, he saw the Tortoise had reached the goal, and was comfortably dozing after his fatigue. Booker T. Washington reminds me of the Tortoise that ended up the winner, and W.E.B. Dubois the Hare.

Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois had similar goals for African Americans: education, citizenship, equal rights, and better lives. But they had different views on how to achieve those goals, and different ideas of how fast they should be expected. I believe that many of these different expectations were because of the dissimilar ways that they grew up.

Booker T. Washington was born a slave on the Burroughs Plantation in Franklin County, Virginia on April 5, 1856. His mother was a slave and he didn't know who his father was, but his father was suspected to be a white man from another plantation. When the emancipation of slaves took place in Virginia he moved to West Virginia with his family. Since his family was poor he had to work to put himself through school. He finished school and became a principal of what is now Tuskegee University. It was like the school he had attended, it provided young male African Americans with practical skills: carpentry, brick-making, budgeting, physical fitness, and also taught them how to conduct themselves in public. According to its website Tuskegee Institute was created "to embody and enable the goals of self-reliance."

W.E.B. Dubois was born "free" in Great Barrington, Massachusetts on February 23, 1868. Although his parents were of "mixed blood" he grew up in a white, middle class community and could pass as a white person. He attended Fisk University and then Harvard. He was the first African American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard. He then taught at the Wilberforce and Atlanta Universities.

I believe that because of their different beginnings, Booker T. Washington and W.E.B Dubois had different expectations. The expectations that W.E.B. Dubois had were not unreasonable. In fact, when I look at them today I agree with most of his ideas. He wanted what was fair for the African Americans. But he wanted it "right now" and the culture of that time period was not favorable for such a quick change.

Booker T. Washington proposed gradual assimilation of African Americans into an equal society. He felt that "equal but separate" was all right, and that if African Americans could prove themselves that the white community would eventually accept African Americans as equal. Booker T. was also well connected politically. Not just because of his moderate ideas, but because he sought out and befriended influential people such as: William Howard Taft, Andrew Carnegie, Julius Rosenwald and millionaire industrialist Henry H. Rogers. This got him a lot of financial and political support.

W.E.B. Dubois, however, was very forward thinking for the time and believed that African Americans should speak out about unfair treatment in order to gain equality. He felt that Pride in being African American should be taught and they should automatically have all of the rights (like to vote) that the Constitution granted. He deliberately refused invitations from Henry James, H.G. Wells, Havelock Ellis, Bernard Shaw, and several Presidents of the United States. In his own words he was "...not what Americans called a good fellow." He alienated many people, so even though he was "right" he did not have as much support as Booker T. Washington.

Booker T. Washington was granted honorary degrees from both Harvard and Dartmouth. He was the first African American to be put on a coin (Booker T. Washington Memorial Half Dollar) and a United States Postage Stamp. He also has a museum and several schools named after him. One of the things he said in his Atlanta Compromise Speech was "No race that has anything to contribute to the markets of the world is long in any degree ostracized. It is important and right that all privileges of the law be ours, but it is vastly more important that we be prepared for the exercise of these privileges."

W.E.B. Dubois is regarded as a man who effected great changes, especially with the establishing of the NAACP and other organizations that he was part of. But in 1963 when discouraged with the United States he renounced his citizenship and became a citizen of Ghana. Langston Hughes wrote a poem called "A Dream Deferred" which seems to sum up Dubois' feelings:

A Dream Deferred

by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore-

and then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over-

like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Both Booker T. Washington and W.E.B Dubois had a great impact on race relations. But during the time that they were alive it seems to me that Booker T. Washington impacted race relations at that time in a more positive, gradual way, and ended up winning that "race" even though W.E.B. Dubois was the one who wanted to get there quicker.


Aesop's Fable - The Hare and the Tortoise, by Aesop. Published in 1947 by Grossett and Dunlap, New York, N.Y.

Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois. Retrieved on March 16, 2006 from

Booker T. Washington - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved on March 16, 2006.

W.E.B. DuBois - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved on March 16, 2006.

Booker T. Washington Delivers the 1895 Atlanta Compromise Speech. Retrieved on March 16, 2006.

W.E.B. DuBois - My Character. Retrieved on March 16, 2006.

Two Opposing Views. Retrieved on March 16, 2006.

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