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Civil Rights Activists Booker T Washington and WEB Du Bois

Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois were both civil rights activists, yet one man’s solution to the problems faced by African Americans in late-nineteenth-century America was better than the other’s. That man was Booker T. Washington. Booker T. Washington was born into slavery whereas W.E.B. Du Bois was born a free man. Their different backgrounds created very dissimilar ideas of how the African Americans would achieve full civil liberties and equal rights.

Having studied at Hampton Institute in Virginia, Booker T. Washington was motivated to spend his time promoting Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. W.E.B. Du Bois on the other hand graduated from Fisk University in Tennessee and then became the first African American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard.

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Washington preached that in order to gain understanding from whites, African Americans would have to concentrate on creating economic security by improving vocational skills. He told blacks to disregard their want for political equality. Du Bois had a different type of audience and he led them to request full civil freedoms, an end to discrimination, and the recognition of human brotherhood. He mocked and jeered at Washington’s ideas.

Washington’s ideas were nothing to be made fun of. He spoke to people who had very little education, if any, yet had the potential to learn. He spoke to people that were good at blue-collar jobs. He spoke from his heart to a nation of African Americans who deserved their rights but needed his wise words to help them.

Proof that Washington spoke on behalf of the whole African American community is in a speech he gave. He said: “To those of my race who depend on bettering their condition…cast down your bucket where you are-cast it down…in agriculture, mechanics, in commerce, in domestic services, and in the professions…no race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem…” Here he is reaching out to everyone with a profound message.

W.EB. Du Bois’s message was quite unlike Booker T. Washington’s. In fact, he turned Washington’s views upside down. In The Negro Problem he wrote that the point of “education isn’t to turn men into carpenters, but it is to turn carpenters into men.” He then went on to singly address the talented tenth of African Americans.

He wrote that, “they must be made leaders of thought and missionaries of culture among their people.” He also wrote that no one else, but the tenth of all African Americans could achieve that. What about the other ninety percent of the community? According to Du Bois, they couldn’t pave the way for the future, couldn’t receive civil rights on their own, because they needed trained representatives.

Both men’s ideas appealed to different generations of African Americans. Du Bois helped found the Niagara Movement and directed the NAACP. Washington’s ideas, however also interested whites. His timid approach relieved tensions between whites and blacks and led the whites to cease worrying that educated African Americans were going seek more equality within society. Whites also started to discuss issues having to do with race relations with him. He earned respect from President Theodore Roosevelt and was invited to the White House.

Getting the respect of whites and receiving full civil rights was the whole object of the rallies and groups that Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois took part in. Booker T. Washington, however, got the attention he deserved and it was through making the whites aware that the blacks weren’t aiming to surpass whites, but merely to be at their level, that brought them to understand.

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Civil Rights Activists Booker T Washington and WEB Du Bois. (2021, Feb 14). Retrieved June 14, 2021, from