Free Which Path? Essay Example
Booker T. Washington’s “Atlanta Exposition Address” and W.E.B. Du Bois’ “Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others” are works that show different viewpoints of the equality of African-Americans by two of their leaders. This discussion will be based on these two writings, analyzing what each author thinks about the issue of equality of African-Americans.
Washington has his own distinct approach on what African-Americans need to do so as to help in terminating racism and segregation in America. Washington proposes that African-Americans should start at the bottom of the system rather than from the top so as to first become knowledgeable and experienced (Xroads.virginia.edu). To do this, they need to acquire skills in areas like industry or real estate that will propel them to economic growth before venturing into politics. These skills can mainly be achieved through industrial training which he encourages more than higher education (Xroads.virginia.edu). He urges African-Americans to “cast down their buckets where they are” meaning that they should tap the opportunities they have such as in agriculture, commerce, and professions to achieve economic prosperity. Through such skills, African-Americans can contribute to world markets making it nearly impossible for them to be ostracized, hence the achievement of equality. This to him is the best way African-Americans can prepare to enjoy the privileges provided in the law. The privileges and equality as described will come through constant struggle rather than trough artificial forcing. He affirms the importance of seeking economic prosperity before social equality by saying that it is way better to be making a dollar in a factory than to spend it in an opera-house. Du Bois however disagrees with Washington’s proposition and has a different approach to what African-Americans can do to help end racism and segregation in America (Xroads.virginia.edu).
According to Du Bois, Washington has a wrong approach since it degrades African-Americans to encourage them to sell their dignity for economic prosperity (Xroads.virginia.edu). Du Bois in contrast to Washington believes that higher education and political involvement are vital for equality. He in fact doubts whether achievement of economic advancement will be possible for African-Americans in the absence of higher education and political involvement. Du Bois believes that African-Americans should continue fighting for political equality to avoid having people they did not elect ruling them. This is because rulers that do not have their interests at heart can fail to guard their property rights and end their economic progress. He further supports that Higher education is vital for equality of African-Americans as it for white people. Du Bois also sees that it is paradoxical for Washington to advocate for industrial training of African-Americans rather than higher education since industrial learning will require people who have higher education as teachers (Xroads.virginia.edu). He additionally finds it ironical that Washington pushes for industrial training knowing well that the required teachers – equipped with higher education– are in great shortage. Du Bois advocates for African-Americans to involve themselves in politics (voting) and higher education stating that dismissing such rights for equality would be lack of self-respect and a way of welcoming ridicule (Xroads.virginia.edu).
Washington and Du Bois hold different views with regard to education. As aforementioned, Washington advocates for industrial education more than higher education since it would give African-Americans the skills needed to be better workers. This would allow them to interact at work with the white race in the production of market goods hence it would be important for promotion of equality. He asks white people to help and encourage African-Americans by educating their hands, hearts, and minds since they too shall benefit by having unresentful and economically productive people (Xroads.virginia.edu). Du Bois disagrees with industrial education over higher education since such institutions still would not operate without higher education graduates, who are in fact not enough. Additionally, he supports higher education more since it is better for equipping African-American political leaders who will bring equality (Xroads.virginia.edu).
With regard to voting, Washington holds that the African-American is still in the learning process of recognition and exercise of his political rights. He explains that this should be a gradual process, and that the Negro should behave in a modest manner when it comes to political claims based on the appropriate influences that result from property ownership, intelligence, and great persona which he requires to recognize his political rights (Xroads.virginia.edu). He insists that he does not oppose voting by a Negro since it is an opportunity for him to learn self-governance. However, he adds that the voting exercise of a Negro should be influenced by his next-door neighbors that have both intelligence and character. From this statement, it can be deduced that he means that African-Americans of that period should ask for the guidance of honest white people when it comes to voting. This is confirmed where he states that he knows of colored men who seek the guidance of white southerners on matters of wealth accumulation but would never ask them for advice when it comes to voting (Xroads.virginia.edu). He asks for this to stop but adds that African-Americans should vote from principle even as they ask for guidance so as not to lose the respect and confidence of the white southerner. He encourages equal rights of voting for both white and black people, and discourages cheating black people to prevent them from voting. Washington further asserts that whatever tests that are used in the voting process should apply equally to both races (Xroads.virginia.edu).
On the issue of voting, Du Bois encourages African-Americans to exercise this right. He states they should always vote no matter the season. Du Bois claims that although Washington is not entirely to blame, his propaganda has definitely played a role in disenfranchising African-Americans who lived at the time of his writing (Xroads.virginia.edu). Du Bois explains that the right of suffrage is vital since it would be impossible even for the property-owners and businessmen Washington is trying to create to succeed in their ventures and defend their rights without it (Xroads.virginia.edu).
According to Washington, civil rights like social integration are not of great importance since they waste energy that would be used for economic advancement (Xroads.virginia.edu). He encourages African-Americans to seek commercial prosperity more than trying to enforce equality artificially. He even states that on entirely social issues, blacks and whites will be like separate like fingers, but together as one hand when it comes to matters of mutual progress (Xroads.virginia.edu). Du Bois is against this dismissal of civil equality by Washington, since it would deplete the humanity of black people in the long run. Therefore, civil equality should be guarded.
In summary, there are several major differences and similarities between the Washington’s and Du Bois’ writings. Firstly, while Washington encourages economic advancement prior to political involvement, Du Bois sees this as retrogress since those seeking for economic growth need protection from leaders that they elect themselves (Xroads.virginia.edu). Secondly, while Washington sees fighting for civil equality as unnecessary before wealth creation, Du Bois believes that this will in the end ruin the manhood of the African-American race, and any other race for that matter (Xroads.virginia.edu). Thirdly, while Washington devalues higher education for African-Americans, Du Bois believes that this is a wrong perception since even the industrial education institutions still need college/university graduates for their teaching staff (Xroads.virginia.edu). One similarity between the writings of these writers is that both encourage African Americans to vote (even though Washington advocates for it to be gradual). The other similarity is that both advocate for the welfare of the African-American. Washington wants them to have material wealth as the major requirement. Du Bois on the other hand wants them to have social and political equality before getting material possessions (Xroads.virginia.edu).
Xroads.virginia.edu,. 'Booker T. Washington. Up From Slavery: An Autobiography'. N.p., 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. < http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/WASHINGTON/ch14.html>
Xroads.virginia.edu,. 'W. E. B. Du Bois, THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLKS'. N.p., 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. < http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/DUBOIS/ch03.html>