When it all comes down to it, one of the greatest intellectual battles U. S. history was the legendary disagreement between Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. DuBois. This intellectual debate sparked the interest of the Northerners as well as the racist whites that occupied the south. This debate was simply about how the blacks, who just gained freedom from slavery, should exist in America with the white majority. Even though Washington and DuBois stood on opposite sides of the fence they both agreed on one thing, that it was a time for a change in the treatment of African Americans.
I chose his topic to write about because I strongly agree with both of the men’s ideas but there is some things about their views that I don’t agree with. Their ideas and views are the things that will be addressed in this essay. To begin with, the legendary Booker T. Washington believed that in order for blacks to gain equality in the United States, we need to peacefully “make friends in every manly way of the people of all races by whom we are surrounded” (Broesamle & Arthur, 52).
Washington warned blacks that in order to earn the respect and equality from the white population, we must be prepared to start at the bottom. He meant starting at the bottom in jobs such as elementary teachers instead of college professors and manual laborers instead of CEO’s so we could earn the respect of whites. Washington knew that making strong demands wouldn’t get the black race anywhere, so “casting down our buckets” and becoming friends and earning the respect of whites seemed like a better option to him because it seemed to have better results.
On the other hand, Booker T. Washington recognized existing equally with whites wouldn’t be a simple task. This is why I believe that Washington said “That in all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet as one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress” (Broesamle & Arthur, 52). Washington was often looked at as an “Uncle Tom” because of the things he did, such as advising blacks to remain in the South and to avoid politics and protest in favor of economic self-help and industrial education.
He eventually became a powerful political boss, friend of white businessmen like Andrew Carnegie, and advisor of some presidents. Washington publicly accepted without protest racial segregation and voting discrimination, but secretly financed and directed many court suits against such proscriptions of civil rights. To Washington his ideas was obvious and clear, by earning the respect of whites they would either help blacks or deal with their crime against humanity that will eventually bring them down.
To me it is obvious why many whites agreed with Washington and many blacks disagreed with him. I agree with Washington by not demanding our rights because making demands would be met with opposition and nothing will be done that is necessary to bring blacks up to the equality line. On the contrary, I disagree with the way that Washington believed that blacks should just ignore how whites treated us with violence then turn around and try to earn their respect.
African Americans during this time wasn’t trying to hear this because just 3 years before his speech in Atlanta, 156 blacks were lynched in one year alone. To the blacks of that time, forgetting that was too big of a pill to swallow and it is obvious why blacks second-guessed the views of Booker T. Washington. The views of W. E. B. DuBois was more popular among blacks compared to those views of Booker T. Washington. DuBois believed that America should give blacks what we deserve and that we shouldn’t plead and beg for a better position in society.
DuBois was simply tired of the way blacks were treated and oppressed even though he was part of the middle class and his father was white. He believed that we should openly complain and be outspoken because to him, silence is “our greatest mistake” (Broesamle & Arthur, 65). Needless to say DuBois wasn’t to excited to simply put the past behind him, in fact, he suggested that it was essential to bring forward the dark side of the picture to show that things are bad in order for them to get better.
In order to perpetuate his many ideals he helped in starting the NAACP. When thinking about Washington’s viewpoints on gaining equality, DuBois felt that Washington's plan to gain equality was only going to further intensify the oppression of African-American's in the United States and more specifically the South. Through DuBois' actions, he helped to teach America that black people were not inferior to whites simply because of their race. Even though Booker T.
Washington criticized DuBois for persuading blacks that they can get what they want out of demands and cursing people, I completely understood where DuBois was coming from. He was agitated and questioned why should blacks “kiss up” to the white majority when they were being beaten, lynched and raped by them. Why should we “ cast down our buckets” when we deserve to be treated with respect and equality. To me, begging to the white majority or being submissive to them is senseless because we did too much of that to gain our freedom as people.
With all of these things considered, I say that I agree more with W. E. B. DuBois than Booker T. Washington. My reason for this is because during this time when the debate was going on, blacks were intensely hated and oppressed and simply ignoring this fact and being submissive and pleading for our natural rights sounds absolutely absurd. I understand that demanding the rights is not necessarily the best option but not demanding our rights is not necessarily the best option. In my honest opinion, I believe that Booker T.
Washington and W. E. B. DuBois should have gotten together and discussed and came up with a good method of operation since they were the two most influential orators of that time. Both Washington and DuBois wanted the same thing for blacks, first-class citizenship, 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. DuBois 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, DuBois believed, should not have to sacrifice their constitutional rights in order to achieve a status that was already guaranteed.