Booker T. Washington Essay

1125 words - 5 pages

Booker T. Washington


At a time when the Black community is being afforded a free status, but not one of
equality, many leaders arise out of the woodwork to appeal to the white governing body
for social equality. The transition from the ninetieth century to the twentieth century
gives birth to two of these leaders, Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois. These
two men are both working to achieve a common goal, but the roads on which they’re
each traveling to get there differ significantly. 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 (Roark, et al p.616),
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”(D), 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. “Ceaseless agitation”(F) he feels will do more in the
fight for equality than “voluntarily throwing away”(E) the reasonable rights they are
entitled to.
The opposing approaches of Washington and Du Bois are far from unnoticeable,
and receive recognition from both sides. Whether or not these two dynamic leaders are
intentionally attacking each other, one can only speculate that the vast differences in
methodology creates tension within the arena. In Washington’s “Atlanta Compromise
Address”(D) 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.”(D) This statement, delivered at a time when Blacks and
whites have separate water fountains(J), almost one-hundred and forty Black people were
lynched(C), and forty-five to sixty percent of Blacks over the age of nine are illiterate(B),
directly condemns the blunt complaining with which Du Bois is aligning himself.
Return criticism is illustrated in The Souls of Black Folk, written by Du Bois in 1903.
“The way for a people to gain respect is not by continually...

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