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Throughout the struggle for equal rights, there have been courageous Black leaders at the forefront of each discrete movement. From early activists such as Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and W.E.B. DuBois, to 1960s civil rights leaders and radicals such as Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and the Black Panthers, the progress that has been made toward full equality has resulted from the visionary leadership of these brave individuals.
This does not imply, however, that there has ever been widespread agreement within the Black community on strategy or that the actions of prominent Black leaders have met with strong support from those who would benefit from these actions. This report will examine the influence of two "early era" Black activists: Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois. Through an analysis of the ideological differences between these two men, the writer will argue that, although they disagreed over the direction of the struggle for equality, the differences between these two men actually enhanced the status of Black Americans in the struggle for racial equality. We will look specifically at the events leading to and surrounding the "Atlanta Compromise" in 1895.
In order to understand the differences in the philosophies of Washington and Dubois, it is useful to know something about their backgrounds. Booker T. Washington, born a slave in 1856 in Franklin County, Virginia, could be described as a pragmatist. He was only able to attend school three months out of the year, with the remaining nine months spent working in coal mines. He developed the idea of Blacks becoming skilled tradesmen as a useful stepping-stone toward respect by the white majority and eventual full equality.
Washington worked his way through Hampton Institute and helped found the Tuskeegee Institute, a trade school for blacks. His essential strategy for the advancement of American Blacks was for them to achieve enhanced status as skilled tradesmen for the present, then using this status as a platform from which to reach for full equality later. Significantly, he argued for submission to the white majority so as not to offend the power elite. Though he preached appeasement and a "hands off" attitude toward politics, Washington has been accused of wielding imperious power over "his people" and of consorting with the white elite.
William Edward Burghardt DuBois, on the other hand, was more of an idealist. DuBois was born in Massachusetts in 1868, just after the end of the Civil War and the official end of slavery. A gifted scholar, formal education played a much greater role in DuBois's life than it did in Washington's. After becoming a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Fisk and Harvard, he was the first Black to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1895.
DuBois wrote over 20 books and more than 100 schol
Quotes talked about in this paper
- he preached appeasement and a "hands off" attitude toward politics, Washington has been accused of wielding imperious power over "his people"
- DuBois reported that Blacks "resented, at first bitterly, signs of compromise which surrendered their civil and political rights, even though this was to be exchanged for larger chances of economic development."
Names referenced in this essay
William Edward Burghardt DuBois, Mr. Washington, Booker T. Washington,
Organizations referenced in this paper
Blacks, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People,
Locations talked about in this essay
Dubois, Atlanta, Washington,
Keywords mentioned in this essay
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