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Booker T Washington Vs. W.E.B Dubois, Two Different Styles Of African American Leadership

1731 words - 7 pages

In the early history of the civil rights movement two prominent African American leaders, Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois arose to accomplish one goal, education for all African Americans. During the turn of the century, between the years 1895 and 1915 there were many theories on how African Americans were going to achieve first-class citizenship. With two separate views on how to accomplish this goal, the African American community was split in half on who to support. While Booker T. Washington believed in industrial and agricultural labor, W.E.B. Du Bois proposed a strategy of pursuit through higher education in order to gain first-class citizenship for the African American race.
Born the son of a slave, Booker Taliaferro Washington was considered during his time to be the spokesman of the African American race. Washington believed that if African Americans focused their attention on striving economically, they would eventually be given the rights they were owed. With this in mind, he encouraged blacks to attend trade schools where they could learn to work either industrially or agriculturally. At his famous Atlanta Exposition Address in Atlanta he declared, "Our greatest danger is that, in the great leap from slavery to freedom, we may overlook the fact that the masses of us are to live by the productions of our hands and fail to keep in mind that we shall prosper in the proportion as we learn to dignify and glorify common labor, and put brains and skill into the common occupations of life" (Humanities Washington).
Washington’s suggestion was one that the Negro race was familiar with. The southern and northern whites accepted his plan because it acknowledged the inferiority of the black race. The Negro "Okayed" it because it was a way of life better than being haunted by the stagnation of sharecropping. With his statement, Washington stressed his idea that "… the opportunity here afforded will awaken among us a new era of industrial progress" (Humanities Washington). He made a point that we as African Americans can achieve the rights we want if we present ourselves useful to the white race. Washington stated, "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 laws be ours, but it is vastly more important that we be prepared for the exercise of those privileges. The opportunity to earn a dollar in a factory just now is worth infinitely more than the opportunity to spend a dollar in an opera house" ("Booker T. Washington").
Washington made it known that befriending the white man was imperative to ending the black man's struggle. He said, "To those of my race who depend on bettering their condition in a foreign land, or who underestimate the importance of cultivating friendly relations with the Southern white man who is their next-door neighbor, I would say: Cast down your bucket where you are, cast it down in making friends, in...

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