W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington: Rivalry and Its Impact on Social Equality

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W.E.B. Du Bois VS. Booker T. Washington

W.E.B. DuBois

Definition: African American reformer who believed that African Americans should protest unjust treatment and demand equal rights

Significance: He is important because he was one of the main African American leaders in the Jim Crow Era that had a strong opinion

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Booker T. Washington

Definition: African American educator who encouraged African Americans to improve their educational and economic well being in order to end discrimination

Integration- The process of ending segregation by providing equal rights and opportunities to all races

Significance: He is important because he was a main leader who had yet another different opinion than other African American leaders

The rivalry between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois, which in the late 19th to early 20th centuries changed the course of the quest for equality in American society, and in the process helped give birth to the modern Civil Rights Movement. Though Washington and Dubois were both born in the same era, both highly accomplished scholars and both committed to the cause of civil rights for blacks in America, it was their differences in background and method that would have the greatest impact on the future.

Washington believed that it was economic independence and the ability to show themselves as productive members of society that would eventually lead blacks to true equality, and that they should for the time being set aside any demands for civil rights. These ideas formed the essence of a speech he delivered to a mixed-race audience at the Cotton State and International Exposition in Atlanta in 1895. There and elsewhere, his ideas were readily accepted by both blacks who believed in the practical rationality of his approach, and whites who were more than happy to defer any real discussion of social and political equality for blacks to a later date. It was, however, referred to pejoratively as the “Atlanta Compromise” by its critics. And among them was W.E.B. Du Bois.

W.E.B. Du Bois mounted a challenge to Washington’s view by the turn of the century. He argued that Washington’s views encouraged white segregationists and limited opportunities for African Americans. He believed that African Americans should have the opportunity of higher education, and should fight for their civil rights, rather than waiting for those rights to be granted after economic equality had been achieved. Unlike Washington, DuBois felt that equality with whites was of the utmost importance. DuBois demonstrated his political beliefs through his involvement in the Niagara Movement, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and served as editor of The Crisis, a black political magazine. He felt that blacks should educate themselves in the liberal tradition, just as whites. DuBois’ more radical approach was received well by other northern freemen. I agree with W.E.B Du Bois because if the African Americans don’t fight for their rights, they won’t be able to gain them. This is because no matter how much education you get if you don’t fight for your rights you will not have them.

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