BOOKER T WASHINGTON *V* WEB DUBOISFor more than a hundred years important Black leaders such as: Douglass, Elliot, Washington, and Du Bois have been both praised and sensationalized in our (Black) history books for their individual efforts in the struggle for the civil and political advancement of Black Americans; but among all others the two most talked about during that period would have to be Booker T. Washington and his fellow activist and most verbal critic W.
E. B. DuBois. Although during the span of their prospective careers both have worked diligently to secure a place for Black Americans in society, agreeing in context with each others hope for the future, in methodology at least their difference of opinion as to the way to go about achieving that goal varied in as many ways as from star to star varies in its positioning in the universe.
Both valued and villainized during his time for his controversial proposal on the unification of Black and White America, civil rights activist Booker T. Washington came to be known as a force to be reckoned with after the presentation of his address at the Atlanta Exposition in 1895. In his proposal, under the guise of wanting to say something meaningful that would unite the races, Washington encouraged Black Americans to: 1. settle for low level industrialized education, thereby focusing on the maintenance of the cotton gin instead of the magnitude of their learning potential, 2. Reconcile with the South in a grandiose gesture of forgiveness, which is in my opinion never the less over shadowed by the hundreds of ropes still decorating Worts IIthe branches of old southern oaks and dogwoods, and 3.
Submit to the loss of all aspirations toward acquiring civil and political rights, therefore with that move relinquishing all hope of ever being anything more than they already were. In proposing that blacks initiate this type of voluntary subservience Washington thought that with time and hard work Blacks could build their futures through the accumulation of commerce and with the patronization of private owned businesses in their communities gradually acquiring the basic civil and political appendages owed them. He felt that it was more important to be able to earn a living then to be able to say that they were equal under the law; in other words a jobless man who is able to vote does nothing to contribute to the good of society if he is unable to first contribute to the preservation of his own well being. It is clear that Washington thought that what he was proposing would not only aid in the advancement of Black Americans but would also bring about the unification of both races, of whoms joining would elevate the Negro standing from burden to asset, but without in their state of ignorance the burden would continue to bare down upon the weight of th!e nations shoulders indefinitely. Although when first received by the Atlanta Exposition Washingtons proposal was applauded and accepted by Whites and too on the surface seemed to be just as duly noted by Blacks as well including those Black militants who Worts III would later recant their support, after the excitement of his address waned Negroes began to castigate Washington for not standing up for the advancement of Blacks under the law.
Among those who began to see the error in Washingtons proposal stood he who was to eventually become Washingtons staunchest critic, W. E. B. DuBois. An advocate for the attainment of civil and political advancement under the law for Black Americans and also higher education for Black youth, DuBois felt that Washingtons speech accepted disenfranchisement and segregation and too settled for a lower level of education in exchange for white toleration and economic cooperation; paralleling the old slave mentality in which Negroes were used to interacting with their White counterparts, instead of being interpreted as a positive step forward it was in truth a premeditated leap backward. As such, if that reconciliation in the final analysis led to but another type of slavery, i.
e. industrial slavery, and lawful and civil inferiority, then as a people Blacks of that time should protest even if it meant disagreeing with Washington and going against the grain .