Booker T. Washington vs. W.E.B. DuBois

The rivalry between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B DuBois is one well known to scholars and historians of the African American community. It is with DuBois Souls of Black Folk that DuBois makes his historic break with the philosophies of Booker T. Washington.

Booker T. Washington

Until the time of DuBois, Washington was among the premier of black activists. Washington's views "racial uplift" for the masses are criticized by many today as more conciliatory than in the definite interests of blacks in America.

Washinton's views on "racial uplift" were that Washington offered black acquiescence in disenfranchisement and social segregation if whites would back the idea of black progress in education, agriculture, and economics. Agriculture to Washington was one of the soul ideas of his "racial uplift" theory.

Washington had found Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in black belt Alabama. He used a sharp political ability to gain his way with the whites of both the North and the South. He convinced Southerners everywhere right up to the governor that his school had education that would keep blacks "down on the farm". And to the Northerners right up to the rich that controlled everything like the Rockefellers he promised the inculcation of the Protestant work ethic all the while promising to blacks in the South that industrial education would give them the tools to have their own lands and businesses.

W.E.B. DuBois

Dubois horribly disagreed with many of Washington's opinions, but also garnered a respect for him as one of the first true black intellectuals who tried to help the black race."One hesitates, therefore, to criticize a life which beginning with so little, has done so much. And yet the time is come when one may speak in all sincerity and utter courtesy of the mistakes and shortcomings of Mr. Washington's career as well as of his triumphs, without being captious or envious, and without forgetting that it is easier to do ill than well in the world". In The Souls of Black Folk in the chapter entitled Of Booker T. Washington and Others he criticizes Washington for his stance on civil rights issues.

An avid supporter of the rights of blacks everywhere. Civic equality, education, and the right to vote. "but they are absolutely certain that the way for a people to gain their reasonable rights is not by voluntarily throwing them away and insisting that they do not want them; that the way for a people to gain respect is not by continually belittling and ridiculing themselves; that, on the contrary, Negroes must insist continually, in season and out of season, that voting is necessary to modern manhood, that color discrimination is barbarism, and that black boys need education as well as white boys." Washington and DuBois would continue to debate and be rivals til Washington's death in 1915.