The 19th century in the American history witnessed a lot of movements for civil rights amongst the African Americans in the country. Among the leaders of the movements for the emancipation of the Negroes in the country were Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois who through their leadership and political schemes put an indelible mark on the history of the struggle against slavery and racial discrimination in the country during their time. The two had same vision of a free African American in the United States but there were glaring differences in their approach to the struggle. This paper compares and contrasts Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois in their approach to the question of discrimination and freedom to the Negro in the American society.
Booker T. Washington was a self taught teacher who rose to prominence in 1895 with his call for vocational education to African Americans. He preferred that the Negroes should have vocational education that could help them to till land and engage in agriculture instead of demanding for equal rights as the whites in higher education, politics, and equal economic empowerment. He helped to establish a vocational school for the African Americans where they were taught agriculture and other vocational courses. During his life, he rose to become a prominent spokesperson for the African American community and mingled with the richest people in the country at the time. This helped him to get donations and funds from them which he used to establish more vocational schools across the country. W.E.B Du Bois a highly educated civil rights scholar having graduated from Harvard and Berlin University. As a social scholar, he publicly opposed Booker’s view of the civil rights for the African Americans. He wrote extensively on the civil rights of the Negroes. DuBois was convinced that the emancipation of the Negro would only come from its exceptional men and highly opined that it was time the Negro was allowed to have his share of higher education as opposed to vocational education that Washington promoted.
Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois were two African American leaders in the 19th century who sought to lead the black people in the United States to overcome the bangs of racism and the discrimination that was happening in the society at that time. The two had contrasting views on the path that African Americans could follow in order to receive freedom from an oppressive white community. While Booker T. Washington believed that time was not yet ripe for the negroes to have their freedom, W.E.B. DuBois was preaching for higher education amongst the Negroes having been convinced that trade and industrial education as advocated for by Washington was likely to confine that African Americans to second-class citizens for the longest time. Washington was a crusader of thrift, patience, and industrial training for the masses, emphasizing the African Americans in the South and North were to give up their demand for political power, insistence on civil rights, and higher education of Negro youths.
Since Washington was a self taught teacher who had struggled to gain his education in a vacation school, he believed that this was the right way to go for the Negroes in the country. On the other hand, the highly educated Du Bois believed that the Negro could be more empowered through higher education and empowerment of exceptional men amongst the Negroes. The diversified educational background could explain the different approaches that the two had concerning civil rights, with Washington thinking that freedom of the African Americans could come through systematic steps and Du Bois seeing freedom as an instantaneous right that the Negroes were denied by the whites in the country. I think that Du Bois was right because the declaration of independence in the country had given all citizens inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Negroes were in the dire economic and social conditions because the American political class and the white community had denied them their constitutional rights. With equal treatment in schools, work places, and in politics the Negroes would rise to the same level as white within a short period of time.