Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois agreed and disagreed on many specific issues. However, the differences between these two men actually enhanced the status of Black Americans in the struggle for racial equality.
DuBois always practiced what he preached. His speeches influenced many, and always used the pen as his mightiest weapon. He used it to encourage blacks to be proud and have pride in everything they have accomplished. DuBois had used the pen to encourage blacks to fight for the rights that they have been denied.
It has not been our fault. Rather we have been the blame and blamed ourselves for this lack of “economic progress”, as it is called. We are rather ashamed that we have not developed more millionaires and more big business. (Paschal 154)
DuBois believed that assimilation was the best means of treating discrimination against blacks in the 1920’s. Education was a key to a diverse and cultural society. DuBois being a well-respected intellectual and leader, worked to reach goals of education and peaceful resolutions between the races and classes. (Glenn 230)
DuBois felt that the black leadership, of Booker T. Washington, was too submissive. Washington wanted blacks to try and get along with society “trying to fit in”. He was encouraging blacks to become educated in the “white man’s world”. He tried to get blacks into working in agriculture, helping with industry and, to accepting that they get a second class status in American society. DuBois felt that Washington’s plan would cause blacks to give up.
While DuBois respected Booker T. Washington and his accomplishments, he felt that blacks needed political power to protect what they had and what they earned. DuBois called for a new plan of action. He felt that the greatest enemy of blacks was not necessarily whites but it was the ignorance of the whites concerning the capabilities of the black race. DuBois’s answer was to encourage the development of black youth in America so that they understand why racism started. The most ?talented tenth? of the youth should be educated to be leaders.(Bonjean 327)
DuBois also describes his opposition to Booker T. Washington’s “Atlanta Compromise” as follows: “Mr. Washington represents in Negro thought the old attitude of adjustment and submission…” According to DuBois, Washington broke the mold set by his predecessors: “Here, led by Remond, Nell, Wells- Brown, and Douglass, a new period of self-assertion and self- development dawned…. But Booker T. Washington arose as essentially the leader not of one race but of two–a compromise between the South, the North, and the Negro.” 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.” DuBois’s point and, according to him, the collective opinion of the majority of the Black community, was that self- respect was more important than any potential future economic benefits. Before Washington’s conciliatory stance gained a foothold, “the assertion of the manhood rights of the Negro by himself was the main reliance.” In other words, DuBois resented what he saw as Washington “selling” Black pride: “…Mr. Washington’s program naturally takes an economic cast, becoming a gospel of Work and Money to such an extent as apparently almost completely to overshadow the higher aims of life.”
Washington and Dubois were great rivals. Their styles and thoughts differed tremendously. However, the common goal of the two was to advance the great Negro race. With their great minds and actions they did just that…and brought blacks to where they stand in today?s society.