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Du Bois vs. Washington: Racist Problem Solution


Booker Washington and Du Bois were considered to be the prominent leaders of African American origin who managed to contribute to the development of American history through segregation and racism eradicating at the beginning of the twentieth century. It is necessary to underline the fact that despite the common goal, both Black representatives have different visions and considerations as to racist problem solutions; Washington was merely concentrated on accommodationism and gradualism in black society, while Du Bois used to stick to militant methods.

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The beginning of the twenty-first century appeared to be the time of race relations deteriorating between white and black nations. As a result, the government developed several policies and passed legal acts, such as the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, to create a middle class of African Americans living in modern society. The philosophical war between two outstanding political leaders Washington and Du Bois was caused by completely opposing strategies being worked out to help black society to have equal rights by the law.

Booker Washington

Washington was considered to be a well-known figure among black activists; he started to develop his policy during the period of economic, political, and social conditions worsening suffered by American blacks. It is necessary to underline the fact that his racial program caused enormous debates between other Negro policies in the period 1895-1915. Washington, who studied at Virginia Hampton University, strived to apply his program to the analysis of economic advancement doctrine. His figure is generally recognized through the speech ‘Atlanta Compromise’; this address was dedicated to setting the appropriate conditions for black people within America providing people with industrial agricultural education and job. He stated that economical independence and respectability are far more significant rather than social and political equality. His program was aimed at providing an economic foothold to African Americans; this step was considered to be the background for social equality and civil rights introduction. According to his position, black people were to be farmers, servants, artisans, and work hard to demonstrate their skills and abilities to the whites. It is necessary to underline the fact that Washington tried to outline the interdependence of Negroes and Americans, despite their social and cultural separation (Haskins, 2003).

Du Bois’ Program

W.E.B. Du Bois was considered to be the second significant leader in the fight for racial equality in the USA at the beginning of the twentieth century; he expressed the opposed opinion as to Washington’s program and addressed the public, not as his opponent. It is necessary to underline the idea that Du Bois completely criticized the position offered by Washington stating that his ideas were not aimed at reaching the principal goal of black people. Du Bois considered Washington to be a strong political boss having too much power providing limitations and restrictions to the Negroes as the nations. He expressed his aggressiveness as to ‘Tuskegee Machine’ introduced by Washington; that is an intricate web of institutions dominated and conducted by Washington, which, by Du Bois, provided a dictatorial control for the affairs of black people and criticized his program aimed at Negro advancement. Certainly, Du Bois supported the desire and ambitions of Washington to fight the racial problem; nevertheless, he considered this person to be a misguided and limited leader. His basic protest was aimed at criticizing Washington’s position of political power insignificance. As a result, his considerations outline the principle cause of Washington’s program for black society: aid withdrawal from institutions for African Americans; Negro’s disfranchisement; the introduction and development of Negro civil inferiority in the form of a distinct status.

Speaking about Du Bois’ program it is necessary to identify the principle aims he strived to reach for the black society: civil equality, equal right to vote, the opportunity to get appropriate education in the USA. The analysis of his position allows us to understand that the basic reason for Du Bois’ criticism of Washington’s program lied in the narrowness of its objectives and complete ignorance of political and social injustices, as well as mass exploitation of black people in the sphere of economical development. (Lewis, 2001).

Personal Criticism

Both Washington and Du Bois strived to solve the same problem and reach stabilization, equality, and independence for people of African American origin; nevertheless, the leaders perceived the issue from different angles which turned into constant debates and conflicts between the positions of their programs. It is necessary to underline the fact that white Americans supported the idea expressed by Washington; it was explained by their vision of a peace formula in racial problems. Besides, the program was especially popular in South American society because of its ignorance of social, political, and civil aspects and the attempt to make the Negro have inferior status. As a result, Washington’s influence was considerably increased on the mass and he was perceived as the head of the entire black community. It is necessary to stress that this position made the leader be dominating figure in the education, business, and political affairs of the nation. Washington accepted no positions, but only his personal; the program expressed by Du Bois was considered to be weak and insufficient. Nevertheless, Washington’s policy is rather contradicting; so, supported the idea of industrial education and labor as the background chance to equality, but at the same time he was a dominant political leader and patronage dispenser. (Gibson, n.d.)

Analyzing the program developed by Du Bois, it should be noted that both of them used to blame black people as the nation for the conditions they lived in. the leaders strived to stress the significance of the self-help aspect and gradual moral improvement, placing these issues ahead of equality of national rights. Du Bois agreed on the position of economic advancement before suffrage of manhood. His program, as well as Washington’s one, strived to support franchise restrictions focused on property and education qualifications, rather than race. Du Bois strongly believed in black nationalism through economic cooperation and racial solidarity. One should underline the fact that Du Bois and Washington used to encourage the development of Negro business allowing the masses to get the necessary industrial training. (Fredrickson, 1996)

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Nowadays the programs of both leaders have been thoroughly analyzed and examined; it is necessary to stress that African Americans managed to reach magnificent progress in their political, social, and economical development. It is difficult to identify the most appropriate position among Washington’s strive for industrialization, and Du Bois’s desire to provide political and legal rights for the black nation. Nevertheless, the analysis of their positions allowed diving into the depth of their intentions. Du Bois outlined the most important issues for the Negro to be reached, such as education and political stability; though it is necessary to state that his considerations had weak support and were predominantly concentrated on the self-help of the nation and moral stabilization. Washington who strived to reach independence based on industrial ‘slavery’ of the black nation, used to provide more advantages for the white nation through the benefits of black labor. Nevertheless, his better position can be explained by a strong political influence and impact on American legal regulations development, allowing him to assure gradual movement to freedom for black people. Washington was not only a powerful leader of the black people; he managed to get the trust and support of the mass, which is considered to be the central task of every national hero. (Frost, & Sikkenga, 2003)


In conclusion, it is necessary to underline the fact that both Washington and Du Bois strived to win independence and freedom for their people; the paper demonstrated the basic differences in the programs developed by leaders. The central approach of Washington’s position was concentrated on the integration of the Negro through economic involvement and unity with the American nation; this insignificant start for the African Americans was perceived by Washington as the basic step to their equality, independence, and responsibility. Du Bois’s criticism of the Washington program is explained by his disbelief in race problem solutions based on such a method; his central point of education role and political status guaranteed black nation sovereignty. It is necessary to underline the idea that Washington’s strong influence of the Negro, as well as reputation among white Americans, provided leaders with a better and dominant position in the problem-solution; despite this fact, both leaders appeared to be an integral part of racial stabilization in American history.


  1. Fredrickson, G. (1996). Black Liberation: A Comparative History of Black Ideologies in the United States and South Africa. Oxford University Press.
  2. Frost, B. and Sikkenga, J. (2003). History of American political thought. Lexington Books.
  3. Gibson, R. (n.d.) Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois: The Problem of Negro Leadership. Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. Web.
  4. Haskins, J. (2003). Black Stars of the Civil Rights Movement. Volume 2, John Wiley and Sons.
  5. Lewis, D. (2001). W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963. H. Holt Publ.

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