Booker T./W.E.B. DuBois

?In the late 19th century, Blacks were suffering due to the oppressions forced upon them by White America. Jim Crow Laws and segregation greatly hindered the progression of the newly freed slaves, and racism consumed the U. S. Two men, Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois, fought for the evolution and rights of African Americans to spread the principle of equality among men. While their ideas of how to go about receiving that freedom differed, the Black community owes a huge amount of their post-slavery advancement to Washington and Du Bois.

Booker Taliaferro Washington was born on April 5, 1856 into slavery on Burroughs Plantation in southwest Virginia. Washington had a white father, but he was absent from his childhood life. Washington was raised as a butler/servant, or what is most commonly known as a house slave. This was because he had etiquette and was half Caucasian. After nine years, his family gained freedom in 1865, just as the Civil War was ending. Washington drove his way through Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute and attended college at Wayland Seminary, all while working a janitorial position for the funding of his education.

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was born on February 23, 1868, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, to Alfred and Mary Du Bois. The Du Bois’ were part of a very small free black population of Great Barrington who were poor. At a young age W. E. B. ’s father abandoned his family, and eventually died shortly after. W. E. B. later attended the local integrated public school and played with white school children. When Du Bois decided to attend college, the congregation of his childhood church donated money for his tuition. Du Bois attended Fisk University.

When Du Bois traveled to the South, it was his first experience with Southern racism, which included the implementation of Jim Crow laws, intolerance, and lynchings. After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Fisk, he attended Harvard. Du Bois paid his way through three years at Harvard with money from summer jobs, scholarships, and loans. Later in his life, with a grant from the Slater Fund, Du Bois studied at the University of Berlin, where he was convinced to believe in Sociology, which alleged the promise that social problems could be solved by scientific principles.

Booker T. Washington believed that racism and discrimination could be ended through economic improvements. He elaborated on that idea by proposing that Blacks should move more slowly toward racial progression. He also believed that Blacks would eventually gain respect and the right to exercise all American freedoms if things were done peacefully and respectfully. In 1895, Booker T. Washington gave the Atlanta Compromise speech before the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta.

His address was one of the most important and influential speeches in American history, guiding African-American resistance to white discrimination and establishing Washington as one of the inspirational black leaders. Washington’s speech stressed accommodation rather than resistance to the racist order under which Southern African Americans lived. Because Washington’s program pacified whites, enormous monetary contributions from white philanthropists were given to Tuskegee and other institutions that adopted the Washington philosophy. Washington’s status grew to the point where he was regarded as the spokesman for the entire Negro community.

With strong white support, Washington became the outstanding black leader not only in the fields of education and philanthropy, but in business and labor relations, politics and all public affairs. In 1901, Washington published his autobiography, Up From Slavery. It is a classic success story containing Washington’s program of accommodation and self-help. Up From Slavery gave a good outlook of black life and race association in America. It gave another boost to Washington’s career because it said what Whites wanted to hear. Washington’s was actually somewhat of a hypocrite.

He told Blacks to remain in the South and avoid politics and protest in favor of economic self-help and industrial education, but he became a powerful political boss, the friend of white businessmen like Andrew Carnegie, and advisor of presidents. Washington publicly accepted segregation and voting discrimination, but secretly gave money to court suits against civil rights. W. E. B. Du Bois supported and was directly involved in the “Niagara Movement”, which was a meeting of African-American civil rights activists near Niagara Falls. There they wrote a declaration of principles opposing the Atlanta Compromise.

Du Bois and the other “Niagarites” wanted to publicize their ideals to other African Americans. He also called for the immediate gain of equality for all Blacks in America, while wanting the top ten percent of Blacks to get and education, become leaders, and integrate into mainstream life. In 1909, after an extreme amount of rioting and murder of negroes occured in Springfield, Illinois, a meeting was held in NY led by Du Bois that eventually caused the formation of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People. The NAACP wanted to completely remove all oppressive legislation against Blacks and allow for their equal treatment.

The group also campaigned to have the 13th-15th amendments heavily enforced. Du Bois was also the founder/editor of the NAACP’s publication, The Crisis. The magazine allowed for others to truly pry into the “Black” world and feel its struggles. Both Washington and Du Bois wanted the same for Blacks in America, but their methods of obtaining freedoms differed. Washington wanted Blacks to work from the bottom up, gradually gaining the White’s respect, while Du Bois called for immediate rights. All in all, the goals that both of these men strived for allowed we as Blacks in America to prosper just as any other race, creating equality.