Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois offer different strategies for dealing with the problems of poverty and discrimination facing Black Americans. Booker T. Washington’s gradualism stance gives him wide spread appeal among both blacks and whites, although W. E. B. Du Bois has the upper hand when it comes to ideology dealing with economic prosperity and education amidst blacks. Product of slavery, reconstruction, and black codes, Washington favors the humble – ask nicely; appreciate what you’re given; and say “thank you” – approach to obtaining social equality.
Washington addresses the issue with meticulous caution, in doing so he not only comes across as an advocate of blacks gaining “all privileges of the law”, but also of blacks being prepared “for the exercises of these privileges. ” By taking this approach Washington is gaining the appeal within the black audience as well as the white community. In contrast to this seemingly effective stance, Du Bois stands on the platform of ask, but ask incessantly with a loud and firm voice.
Du Bois even goes as far as to say that if the black community wants social equality they must simply complain. The opposing approaches of Washington and Du Bois are far from unnoticeable, and receive recognition from both sides. In Washington’s “Atlanta Exposition Address” he comments that the “wisest among my race understand that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremist folly, and that progress in the enjoyment of all the privileges that will come to us must be the result of severe and constant struggle rather than of artificial forcing”(Washington 763).
This statement, delivered at a time when blacks and whites have separate water fountains, directly condemns the blunt complaining with which Du Bois is aligning himself. “The way for a people to gain respect is not by continually belittling and ridiculing themselves; that, on the contrary, Negroes must insist continually, in season and out of season, that voting is necessary to modern manhood, that color discrimination is barbarism, and that black boys need education as well as white boys” (Du Bois 891), seems to be a direct response to the address of Washington.
With Jim Crow laws in effect, Du Bois position seems to be the more fitting and proper of the two. The ideology of Washington promotes unity “in all things essential to mutual progress,”(Washington 762) but in comparison to Du Bois stand point in the early twentieth century he comes across as merely a sell out. Thus, W. E. B. Du Bois is the more highly regarded and esteemed of the two based on his fervent advocating of black rights. The impending question plaguing the black community is that of equal opportunity within the realms of education.
Advocacy of Washington for industrial education is grounded in his training. Du Bois, on the other hand, acknowledges the efforts being made of opportunities for blacks and he sees “the most meager chance for developing their exceptional men” (Du Bois 889), within the black community. Du Bois observations are justified by the landmark court case of Plessy v. Ferguson, where the notion of separate but equal is deemed constitutional. The statistic causes Washington to be shunned once again for his stance, and Du Bois is again embraced for his radical stance .
Washington, being the more passive activist by nature, is regarded by some Black historians as a traitor. But the radical adversary of the self- assertion approach, Du Bois, wins the majority of the black community with his aggressive ideology. Both Washington and Du Bois wanted the same thing for blacks but their methods for obtaining it differed. Because of the interest in immediate goals contained in Washington’s economic approach, whites did not realize that he anticipated the complete acceptance and integration of Negroes into American life.
He believed blacks, starting with so little, would have to begin at the bottom and work up gradually to achieve positions of power and responsibility before they could demand equal citizenship? even if it meant temporarily assuming a position of inferiority. Du Bois understood Washington’s program, but believed that it was not the solution to the “race problem. ” Blacks should study the liberal arts, and have the same rights as white citizens. Blacks, Du Bois believed, should not have to sacrifice their constitutional rights in order to achieve a status that was already guaranteed.