Washington and Du Bois’ Opposite Stances for Leading Progression


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Simon McGautha Dr April Langley English 3400 12 November 2013 Washington and Du Bois Opposite Stances for Leading Progression The conflict between the most prominent leaders in African American History Booker T Washington and W E B Du Bois led to a historical controversy over how to repair African American status and culture Their disagreement was a product of differing political stances Ultimately Washington and Du Bois wanted advancement for African Americans economically and socially But the political aspect concerning the progression of blacks was the vital difference between what Washington and Du Bois envisioned for blacks in America Booker T Washington s Atlanta Exposition Address in 1895 was the cause of W E B Du Bois chapter titled Of Mr Washington and Others in his novel The Souls of Black Folk The leaders misconceptions of one another and their competing ideologies was the reflection of ambivalence within African Americans after Reconstruction In the mid to late nineteenth century African Americans were legally freed but political corruption and scare tactics in society provided the loopholes desired for whites to isolate and vilify African Americans Because of their participation in the Civil War and the ending of slavery in 1865 African American strived for equal liberating rights However their future as a race was not as bright as they hoped They were deemed an inferior race African Americans were not entitled to rights guaranteed by the Constitution and restricted by Jim Crow laws The only benefit received by few African Americans was the accumulation of land primarily in the South for sharecropping Black land ownership increased more than 500 percent between 1870 and 1900 1 With this land Blacks began to obtain a sense of status amongst Whites for their contributions to farming and the creation of black businesses Whites resented this success They retaliated by accusing blacks of heinous petty crimes The southern criminal justice systems yielded nothing but injustice to black people Vagrancy laws made it easy to arrest idle black men or one who was passing through the community 2 Black attorneys were made ineffective by ensuring little or no protection in court Ironically Blacks only received leniency for the crimes if it were against another black person or if there were affiliated with a prominent white figure Black people received longer sentences and larger fines than white people 3 Desperate for power and the freedom to live peacefully Blacks were caught in a bind How would African Americans break free from their particular bondage with society denying them of their legal rights Without formal education Blacks were ignorant of skills beyond domestication knew little of legal entitlements and could not cultivate their minds beyond what they were told to think They were regarded as savages and brutes Their children often referred as Pickaninny by Whites were trained to become little workers and portrayed as victims of nature Over all these stereotypes were used to damage the esteem of blacks and belittle their existence The hope of Blacks was dwindling because discrimination served as a permanent force upon their culture in America Washington and Du Bois knew there was 1 Darlene Clark Hine William C Hine and Stanley Harrold African Americans A Concise History 4th ed Upper Saddle River New Jersey Pearson 2012 328 2 Ibid 3 Hine Hine and Harrold African Americans 329 a solution to their strife while remaining in America Fleeing to Africa would not change the attitudes of the masses nor ensure acceptance It essentially became a battle between the New and Old Negro for the support of their people In addition to their generational differences their paths to success were opposite in formation Here is where they both developed their ideologies found inspirations and decided to challenge white domination Due to their levels of intelligence both leaders defined a complex style of leadership Critiques emphasize the background of these prominent leaders to reveal the creation of their individual philosophies Booker T Washington was born a Southern slave with little opportunity to receive formal education As a child he begged for rides and hitch hiked to Hampton to attend school There he was heavily influenced the Samuel Chapman Armstrong a general whom developed a system of education teaching students all forms of labor were honorable and all forms of idleness a disgrace 4 Washington learned early to specialize in a political rhetoric that manipulated the wants of Southern Whites These tactics were evident in his Atlanta Exposition speech when he preached for whites to depend on Blacks for industrial work Cast down your bucket where you are Cast it down among the eight millions of Negroes whose habits you know whose fidelity and love you have tested in days when to have proved treacherous meant the ruin of your firesides Cast down your bucket among these people who have without strikes and labour wars tilled your fields cleared your forests built your railroads and cities and brought forth 4 Raymond Wolters Du Bois and His Rivals Columbia Missouri University of Missouri Press 2002 45 treasures from the bowels of the earth Casting down your bucket among my people 5 Because Washington s words painted a picture of ultimate loyalty despite the Black plight Whites were willing to hear and accept his following propositions Washington s consciousness framed the belief that in order for Southern oppressors to accept blacks they must not be offended And for blacks to accumulate wealth or prosperity it must be done through industrialization and becoming an asset to the economy He purposely strayed away from politics because is was not a tactful way to gain access or power the South adamantly denied African Americans of this right Therefore Washington encouraged blacks to obtain a humble attitude towards their current living state and work to improve their relations with whites The integrationist appeared to betray his own people in his efforts of advancing them September 1895 Washington s famous speech given at the Atlanta Convention was an inevitable success The particular metaphor In all things purely social we can be as separate as the five fingers and yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress was ever so clever in timing and wording which is the key to succeeding in the world of politics Du Bois even praised Washington for his apparent compromise In a personal note to Washington W E B Du Bois characterized the Atlanta Address as a word fitly spoken Du Bois even wrote to the New York Age suggesting that here might be the basis of a real settlement between whites and blacks in the South if the South opened to the Negroes the doors of economic 5 Ed Frederick D Drake and Lynn R Nelson Document 43 Booker T Washington Atlanta Exposition Address 1895 States Rights and American Federalism A Documentary History 1999 151 opportunity and the Negroes co operated with the white South in political sympathy 6 Washington s effectiveness laid in his jargon One must analyze this famous phrase the separation of the fingers means social segregation and the joints of the fingers connected to the palm could represent the multiple roles required for industrial operation With this metaphor African Americans were now apart of economic functions of society However should African Americans settle for this domestic role as if it were their only way to survive in the late nineteenth century Both Washington and Du Bois agreed that strengthening the economy could place value among African Americans But Du Bois as a pluralist could not compromise the pride of their race intellectually to gain the support of White Americans However Du Bois was universal with communication with Whites as well Du Bois was a radical but he often engaged with many individuals outside his race Being a sociology and history professor at Atlanta University from 1898 to1910 7 he gained respect then later likability from his students and faculty The Northerner was not accustomed to life in the South as much as Washington Washington upheld first hand experience as a former slave and young laborer in contrast with Du Bios whom was born and raised in the largely white town of Great Barrington Massachusetts It was a small community where he encountered little or overt racism and a passion for knowledge 8 Du Bois was aware of Washington s southern wisdom of handling matters in a hospitable and persuasive manner This connection to Washington contributed to Du Bois ambivalence and careful critique of Washington 6 Wolters Du Bois and His Rivals 53 7 Wolters Du Bois and His Rivals 36 8 Hine Hine and Harrold African Americans 371 In The Souls of Black Folk Du Bois acknowledged Washington s achievements in the South and the development of the Tuskegee Institute while including his own bias on Washington s resolution to Black oppression To an extent Du Bois and Washington maintained an odd friendship but their intentions were beyond kind behavior these leaders knew the future of African Americans were in their hands This partnership of power soon turned into a battle Washington upheld there were two keys to racial progress One was developing skills that were useful to the larger community and the second key to progress was racial harmony Washington said that during the Reconstruction African Americans had placed too much emphasis on voting ad politics 9 Du Bois rejected this notion His key arguments required that African Americans demand their right to vote His second point placed responsibility on the black elite to guide African Americans This intellectual group of radical activists was titled the Talented Tenth Du Bois reasoned Without well educated black leaders African Americans would have to depend on whites for guidance and no race should have to depend on outsiders for its own leaders 10 This excerpt from The Souls of Black Folk reveals Du Bois changing stance from being with Washington to opposing him So far as Mr Washington preaches Thrift Patience and Industrial Training for the masses we must hold up his hand and strive with him But so far as Mr Washington apologizes for injustice North or South does not rightly value the privilege and duty of voting belittles the emasculating effects of caste distinctions and opposes higher training and ambition of out brighter minds so 9 Wolters Du Bois and His Rivals 50 10 Wolters Du Bois and His Rivals 53 far as he the South or the Nation does this we must unceasingly and firmly oppose him 11 Du Bois devout efforts to challenge Mr Washington stemmed from a series of consecutive events Southern states disfranchise black voters in 1891 Plessy v Ferguson legalized separate but equal in 1896 and the occurrence of the Phoenix riot in South Carolina and the Wilmington Riot in North Carolina in 1898 In addition between 1877 and 1901 the number of Black Congressmen fluctuated between one to three members 12 Blacks were quickly losing any from of political power Whites were effectively keeping blacks misrepresented in Congress because blacks did not have a vote to compensate Washington did not openly move to confront the problem either His speech at the Atlantic Exposition surely did not win over African Americans in search for immediate drastic change He encouraged blacks to stop fighting for politics and start working for respect One could say his viewpoint was more realistic for the time period compared to Du Bois On the other hand many disagree with Washington s stubborn views The subtle language scheming and manipulation used by Washington to form the Tuskegee Machine was the same system keeping Blacks from fulfilling their potential intellectually so we think Many are unsure about the true intentions of Washington As written in Of Mr Booker T Washington and Others radicals received it as complete surrender of demand for civil and political equality 13 In 1903 the same year as this publication a meeting was held in Boston for the National Negro Business League During the meeting William Monroe Trotter stood on a chair and interrupted a speech by 11 Hine Hine and Harrold African Americans 373 12 Hine Hine and Harrold African Americans 332 13 W E Burghardt Du Bois The Souls of Black Folk Essays and Sketches Chicago A C McCLURG CO 1909 43 Washington defiantly asking Are the rope and the torch all the race is to get under your leadership 14 Du Bois heard of the incident and was ashamed of Trotter s behavior but openly admired his courage and vitality Because of this Washington concluded that Du Bois was against him One must wonder why Washington s reaction towards Du Bois was so hostile and extreme Washington s empire could not be challenged or denied in order for his philosophy to continue amongst African Americans The newer generations of blacks were not passive towards whites or compromising in their beliefs For Washington to remain in control his supporters would have to suffer longer through discrimination The wisest among my race understand that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremist folly and that progress in the enjoyment of all the privileges that will come to us must be the result of severe and constant struggle rather than of artificial forcing 15 Washington stood firmly behind this belief Those who trespassed him were not realists towards the struggles of the south Not until Washington s death was Du Bois and other leaders within the NAACP able to truly tackle political barriers But ironically in the same instance Booker T Washington s emphasis on hard work and survival led to the possibility of blacks attaining the American Dream in America Du Bois balanced Washington s submissive political views to preserve the pride and intellectual capabilities of their race In the midst of their conflict both figures were vital to the repairing a race damaged from slavery and the Reconstruction period Bibliography 14 Hine Hine and Harrold African Americans 371 15 Ed Frederick D Drake and Lynn R Nelson Document 43 Booker T Washington Atlanta Exposition Address 1895 151 Drake Frederick D and Lynn R Nelson Document 43 Booker T Washington Atlanta Exposition Address 1895 States Rights and American Federalism A Documentary History 1999 151 Du Bois W E Burghardt The Souls of Black Folk Essays and Sketches Chicago A C McCLURG CO 1909 Hine Darlene Clark William C Hine and Stanley Harrold African Americans A Concise History 4th ed Upper Saddle River New Jersey Pearson 2012 Wolters Raymond Du Bois and His Rivals Columbia Missouri University of Missouri Press 2002

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