Contributions to Black Nationalism in the United States
Critically discuss the contributions of both Booker T. Washington and W.E.B DuBois to the idea of Black nationalism in the United States. What were the major obstacles they faced in their articulation of the black Nationalist ideology?
Booker T. Washington “was an American political leader, educator and author” who proved to be one of the most dominate figures in African American history in the United States (Booker, par. 1). William Edward Burghardt Du Bois “was a noted scholar, editor, and African American activist…[who] sought to eliminate discrimination and racism” (.. During the late 19th and early 20th century Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois were two great men who significantly influenced the idea of Black Nationalism in the United States. Though they both wanted to see an America where the Negro was treated with proper respect and equality, their views on how to obtain these noble goals contrasted one another. The ideology of DuBois and Washington were so completely different that people became subjected to following the doctrine of one or the other. With the knowledge that only one could be the “spokesman” for the race the two began a bitter battle to control the Black Nationalism ideology. Amid the competition against one another, both men still had to face other obstacles such as racism in order to further the goals of blacks of the period. Even though the two men had differing opinions on the ideology of Black Nationalism, both would greatly contribute to the idea of Black Nationalism. However, their differing positions on Black Nationalism portrayed a divide amongst African Americans of the time.
To understand why Washington and DuBois had such differing opinions it is necessary to look back into the environments that both men came from. Born into slavery in 1856, Washington was the son of a white man and his slave mother Jane. While growing up in Virginia, Washington worked in both a coal mine and as a salt packer. In 1872 Washington left his work to go the Hampton Institute. The major educational doctrine of the school was that former slaves should receive a practical education that centered on skills instead of a liberal arts education. At the institute Washington worked to pay his way through school. After leaving the school, Washington worked for several years before he received an appointment to establish the Tuskegee Institute in 1881. At Tuskegee, Washington used many aspects of the education he received from the Hampton Institute. One of the central ideas that he brought from the institute was the belief that blacks should learn a trade or skill. (Hine 369)
William Edward Burghardt DuBois’ background shaped his paralleling views to those of Washington. In contrast to Washington, who was born on a plantation, DuBois was born in a small North Eastern town where he was subject to little overt racism and acquired a much higher education. He was once quoted as saying, “I was born free. Washington was born a slave. He felt the lash of an overseer across his back. I was born in Massachusetts, he on a slave plantation in the South. My great-grandfather fought with the Colonial Army in New England in the American Revolution. I had a happy childhood and acceptance in the community. Washington’s childhood was hard. I had many more advantages: Fisk University, Harvard, and graduate years in Europe. Washington had little formal schooling (Hine 400).” This quote exemplifies his opposing foundation compared to that of Washington. DuBois’ background made him more comfortable with confrontation with whites, while Washington’s created a deep subconscious feeling of fear and submission. While DuBois enjoyed the benefits that the upper class life had to offer, Washington was faced with scorn, dehumanization, neglect, and prejudice, all of which he had to overcome. It is apparent for the quote that DuBois sympathizes and...
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