February 16, 2019
Culture Conflict Essay
In “Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others” from The Souls of Black Folk ,W.E.B. Du Bois details Washington’s rise to success and the effects it has on America. It contains Du Bois’ political opinions and beliefs regarding the ideas of Washington. While reading Du Bois’ opinions on Washington it is important to look at both of their lives leading up to when each man rose to fame to understand why they believed the things they did because of how different their views are. Washington was seen as more submissive while Du Bois was more active and strong willed.
Du Bois starts “Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others” by writing “Easily the most striking thing in the history of the American Negro sine 1876 [when reconstruction ended] is the ascendancy of Mr. Booker T. Washington” (Du Bois PG. 538).It’s filled with compliments and critiques dissecting Washington’s politics and the Washington’s Atlanta Exposition. While discussing the Atlanta Exposition he calls the ideas unoriginal. He also criticized Washington for not demanding equality for black people, though it was granted in the 14th amendment. An issue Du Bois had was also that Washington proposed a compromise stating black Southerners should avoid seeking social and political equality with white people.He writes that both sides approved it because “the south interpreted it in different ways: the radicals received it as a complete surrender of the demand for civil and political equality; the conservatives, as a generously conceived working basis for mutual understanding” (Du Bois Pg. 539). He’s laying out exactly why he believes it was so widely accepted by all, and it’s that everyone had a different understanding of what he said. His personal distaste for this idea seemed to be because of his thirst for equality and because he didn’t see it as something that black people should wait to have, but something they should already have.
These two men were total opposites in their ideas regarding equality and the rights of Black Americans of their times. But, to understand Washington and where he came from with his beliefs and ideas it is important to understand where he came from. Booker T Washington was born into slavery in 1856 by the name of Booker Taliaferro Washington to his mother Jane and an unknown white father. He worked from a young age carrying sacks of grain and was beat on occasion when he wasn’t doing his job to the standards of the slave owners (Norrell). He first experienced education watching kids in a schoolhouse near the plantation from the outside. He and his mother moved to Malden, Massachusetts after the civil war where his mother married Washington Ferguson. At 9 he worked in a salt furnace instead of going to school. His mother got him a book and he got up early in the morning to practice reading and writing. In 1872 he left home and did odd jobs where he could find them to support himself and get through college where he also worked as a janitor to help pay for his tuition. He was eventually offered a scholarship by the schools headmaster. He went on to graduate in 1875 and for some time taught at his elementary school and was chosen to speak at Hampton’s graduation ceremonies. He was then offered a teaching job at Hampton by the headmaster. Then in 1881 Alabama approved for a colored school and Booker was recommended by General Armstrong to run the new school. Washington went all over the countryside promoting the school and to raise money for it. He made sure to assure white people that the school would not threaten them, bring harm to them, or hurt them economically. Tuskegee became a leading school in the country while under Booker T. Washington and by the time of his death had more than 100 buildings and 1,500 students in attendance. His eagerness for education from such a young age and continuous support from schools and the headmaster are factors as to why he valued education for black people so much so that he made it his main issue in regards to black people’s struggle.
Life for W.E.B. Du Bois was very different than Washington’s. He was born William Edward Burghardt Du Bois in 1868. He was born to his two parents Mary Silvina Burghardt and father Alfred Du Bois, but after two years his father left (Lewis). He grew up in a mainly white area in Massachusetts. He went to school with white children and was supported by his white teachers and was the first in his family to attend high school. In 1885 he attended Fisk University in Tennessee and encountered Jim Crow laws for the first time. He began analyzing racism in America at this time. After getting his bachelor’s degree he went to Harvard and paid his way through summer jobs, loans, and scholarships. He then participated in a study abroad program in Berlin. He then became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University and then became a doctoral student at Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universitat and was awarded an honorary doctoral degree in 1958. Back in 1897 he was offered a job to lead several studies on black southern households in Virginia to uncover how slavery still affected the personal lives of African Americans. He then went on to do two more studies in Alabama and two more in Georgia. During this time he wrote “The Strivings of the Negro People” to explain to white people how it felt to be a victim of racism. He moved to Atlanta where he taught sociology at Atlanta University. He taught summer school at Washington’s Tuskegee University but joined Washington’s rivals the Niagara Movement, after friction between the two men. The Niagara Movement focused on seeking justice and equality for black Americans. However Washington’s opposition led to the failure of the group. Du Bois’s background of studying sociology and not experiencing racism as early as Washington are factors into why his ideals were so different than Washington’s. Though he did also value education he was much more eager to gain rights and equality rather than starting with seeking education.
Du Bois’s commentary and opinions show how life experiences can shape political views. The lived experiences of both Du Bois and Washington had lasting effects on both men’s political views. Their politics clashed as did the two men. The lives they both lived before rising to fame and social status showed how they came to be the men they were, one was more focused on waiting for equality while the other didn’t believe in waiting. Both valued education but for one, equality didn’t have to wait for it.