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Booker T. Washington and Du Bois American History Mid-term paper
The US is a country that has gone through significant transformations throughout its existence. Without any doubt, the most significant of them were the Civil War and Reconstruction. These two historic processes were driven by the powerful interior social and economic factors that required the complete change of the nation’s attitude towards the Blacks. As a result of these changes, the American society has a Bill of Rights and the 13th, 14th, and the 15th Amendments of the Constitution. However, one should note that these processes were not driven automatically as there were many influential personalities involved from the both conflicting sides.
Thus, the paper discusses the role of Booker T. Washington and Du Bois in the processes that historians call “Reconstruction.” Moreover, it identifies their views on economic and socio-political rights, education as well as Reconstruction itself. The study identifies the impact of both leaders on the destinies of the African Americans in the South, involving the cases of the agreement and disagreement in their views. The presented research assumes that both leaders had a significant impact on the course of history and the abolishment of racial segregation though their views sometimes greatly differed.
The Background of the Two Leaders
In order to enhance the understanding of the role of the two social and political leaders of Reconstruction, one has to identify their class and background. Thus, the origins of these two persons significantly differ. Booker T. Washington was born to a family of an African-American slave, whereas W. E. B. Du Bois was born in a family of free Blacks. It took great efforts for the young Washington to receive the appropriate education. For instance, Turkel (2005) argues that Washington worked hard to be admitted to Hampton Institute. Moreover, the latter thanks for the help to General Samuel C. Armstrong, who supported him in the struggle. Moreover, when he was a child, his family moved to Virginia. At the same time, Du Bois received education at Congregational church. Moreover, Horne and Young (2001) argue that the church community explored his talent in education and collected the money for him to study. Consequently, Du Bois received the education in the First Congregational Church of Great Barrington.
Describing the ways the two Reconstruction leaders expressed their views, it should be noted that Booker T. Washington was an orator and writer. His had good rhetoric skills because of his work as a mentor and teacher. At the same time, Du Bois was more talented in writing. Bois (2007) notes that first of all Du Bois was a writer and talked like “an extraordinary well-educated Anglo-American Victorian.” At the same time, both activists were teachers at educational institutions. Due to this reason, they had a possibility to spread their ideas among students and other people. Consequently, their position and talents led to the fact that both of them gathered a significant group of supporters. However, despite their aims were similar, their views on the implementation of the plans of granting civil rights to Blacks sometimes differed.
The Views of Booker T. Washington and Du Bois on Social and Economic aspects of the Post-Emancipation Period
First of all, one should state that that both discussed personalities opposed racial segregation and wanted racial equality throughout the country. One of the characteristics that rendered their relation to the racial issue was that they referred to Blacks as “people of color” and not “Negroes” (Bois, 1965). Both leaders were disappointed with the social state of the former slaves during the process of Reconstruction. It turned out that numerous authorities attempted to restrain the process of liberation. The indicator of that was the attitude towards the former slaves of the South, which caused them to migrate to northern territories. Furthermore, the adoption of the “Black Code” and Jim Crow laws, de facto, legislated racial segregation. As a result, the Blacks were deprived of voting, education, testifying against the Whites and so on. That is why Booker T. Washington and Du Bois saw their primary aim as the change in the socio-political sphere of the country towards the abolishment of segregation.
One can understand Washington’s vision of the issue when turning to his “Atlanta Compromise Speech.” Thus, in the speech, he challenged the society with post-emancipation realities and proposed the form of social agreement that the Blacks called not a compromise but capitulation (The Booker T. Washington Era, n. d.). One of the main ideas of his speech was that the Blacks “must not expect overmuch” on the way of humble efforts of the leaders to make progress (Booker T. Washington Delivers the 1895 Atlanta Compromise Speech, n. d.). Thus, he proposes the agreement where the Blacks would not aspire for the citizen’s freedoms. Instead, they should be allowed obtaining basic education. Of course, such ideas outraged the public that was fighting for complete emancipation and abolition of segregation.
For instance, Du Bois officially criticized this position though he seemed to favor it at the time of its adoption. Thus, he claimed that the emancipation of the Blacks gave them experience and hope for the life in complete citizenship. However, he stated that the agreement, proposed by Booker T. Washington, takes those experiences and hope back and leaves them without their dream. Consequently, he claimed that “Mr. Washington represents in Negro thought the old attitude of adjustment and submission” (W.E.B. DuBois Critiques Booker T. Washington, n. d.). Thus, one may state that the demands and expectations of Du Bois were more progressive. The opposition of their views might come from their background, where Du Bois was a free man whereas Washington experienced slavery.
That is why, possibly, Booker T. Washington’s tactics and visions of progress when combating racial segregation took a form of a doubtful compromise. At the same time, he was aware of the consequences of education for the former slaves because he knew that educated people would have more freedoms for self-realization. At the same time, Du Bois fought for “freedom of speech, … recognition of the principle of human brotherhood, the right of the best training available for all people” (The Booker T. Washington Era, n. d.). Therefore, later, as the implementation of Atlanta Compromise left the former slaves deprived of full citizenship, he formed the Niagara Movement. It defended the civil right of the blacks and gradually had grown into The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Thus, one can state that Du Bois was more persistent in his aspirations and followed the principles of revolutionary social changes in America.
Furthermore, one presumes that the visions of Du Bois and Booker T. Washington on the economy and education almost coincided. For instance, Washington predicted significant changes and economic progress because of the millions newly appeared citizens. Thus, he claimed that nine million of men can make effective progress in economic lines when they have political rights and education (Booker T. Washington Delivers the 1895 Atlanta Compromise Speech, n. d.). However, Du Bois’ vision of the economic changes aspired further. Thus, his position was that the Blacks need not only the possibility to obtain the basic education but receive higher education (Bois, 2007).
Moreover, he introduced the term “the talented tenth”, which should be the Blacks that would succeed in the intellectual development and lead the masses (Black Education: Washington and DuBois, n. d.). At the same time, he believed that the economy of the country should be formed not only with agricultural sector but growing industries. That is why, having socialistic views, he widely discussed the protection of labor of the African American proletariat (Van Wienen & Kraft, 2007). Thus, the organization defending the civil rights of the Blacks, that he formed later, also defended the rights of African Americans involved in industrial labor and professional education. Consequently, one may state that the background of Booker T. Washington might psychologically restrict him from the implementation of more challenging social issues. On the contrary, the background of Du Bois impacted on his progressive and uncompromised thinking and actions. Therefore, each leader had peculiar social connections and relationships with the communities of the South and the North.
The Relationship of Booker T. Washington and Du Bois with the Communities of the South and the North
First, it should be noted that, without any doubt, both leaders had a significant support of the African American community as well as were anticipated by the Confederates. However, the range of the support of the Blacks varied because of the decisions and views described above. Thus, Booker T. Washington had an immense support of the Blacks before the Atlanta Compromise. However, his speech resulted in the strong opposition and disappointment of his former supporters. They treated Washington’s position as a loss of the Black representatives and demanded more freedoms. Thus, Johnson (1999) argues, “Mr. Washington has encountered the strongest and the most lasting opposition, amounting at times to bitterness.”
Thus, such leaders of the Black community as Du Bois, Forten and Purvis, Barbados and others later criticized the Washington’s “weak” position and organized the unions defending the civil rights of the blacks. However, the significant characteristic of Booker T. Washington was that his compromise made him the leader not only of one race but two (Johnson, 1999). The reason for this was that the white communities of the North made huge investments in the social change of the South, and they required peace and stability. Washington’s compromise brought the peace that wanted the North. Moreover, his proposals were admired by the politicians of the South because the Blacks refused from their freedoms in exchange for education.
At the same time, the politics of the South treated Du Bois as their opponent because his prior demand was the abolition of segregation. Moreover, Du Bois demanded the recognition of equal labor conditions for African Americans, which made them competitors of the Whites on the labor market. At the same time, Du Bois opposed Booker T. Washington considering his decisions weak and non-efficient. However, the history has shown that the measures implemented by both leaders were efficient despite of their different nature.
Summing up, one comes to a conclusion that Booker T. Washington and Du Bois were two prominent leaders of Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction period. Their historic background significantly influenced their methods and vision of the Black emancipation. Thus, Booker T. Washington, born in the family of a former slave, preferred compromise solutions. At the same time, Du Bois, being a member of a free family, expressed revolutionary ideas and had more strict demands for the South. Their visions of the need for the social changes and education coincided. However, Du Bois had a more progressive vision of the economic development of the country, admiring industrial labor and socialistic ideas.
The methods of the implementation of their ideas influenced different communities. Thus, both the representatives of the South and the North saw Booker T. Washington as their leader because of the Atlanta Compromise. On the contrary, the South saw Du Bois as the ideological opponent fighting for the abolishment of slavery. Thus, he formed several organizations protecting the civil rights of the Blacks. However, despite the different views and strategies, both methods introduced by Booker T. Washington and Du Bois were efficient. Therefore, the result of their activity is a country free from racial inequality and segregation.