Booker Taliafero Washington and William Edward Burghardt Du Bois made great sacrifices to move toward African American progress but grew up in different places where they conformed to different beliefs. Washington believed that survival and safety needs must be accomplished before more complex needs of self expression and equality. But Du Bois believed in political struggle. He wanted black people should fight for equal rights.
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Washington’s book, Up From Slavery, is full of messages for the black people. It was a work of non-fiction but a good literary creation. Washington was of the view that blacks could secure self-respect and economic independence if they practiced and learned a trade. The three things Washington stated in Up From Slavery was:
- Economic options for African American but continued social separation would keep the whites happy.
- Blacks should not receive higher education; they should receive education based on a trade instead.
- That black folk should start conforming to how the white society lives.
He believed blacks should focus on modest economic goals and to accept temporary racial discrimination in order for life in America to be better for the African American race. Washington captured his viewpoint in his statement: “In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.”
Up From Slavery which is basically his biography, Washington writes about his childhood growing up with a mulatto mother and a father he never knew. His mother, Jane, who was a cook for a small planter, had an inspiration on her son. She taught her son continuous lessons on courage, firmness, resourcefulness, and positive concepts, which influenced many of his later philosophies and approaches about women and equality. Washington spent nine years in slavery until the Emancipation Proclamation was approved. In that time he grew to learn about the political, physical, economic, and moral issues of the Civil War. Those nine years of his youth had a crucial impact on his development and future thoughts to help his people.
In The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois raised voice for equal rights for the black people. Like Washington, he was born in slavery but was fortunate enough to attend high school which he graduated early. He was a zealous student. Realizing the great opportunity that he had to be educated, Du Bois was determined that every African American should have the chance to do the same. He was of the view that every person, regardless of race, should be able to receive a true education, one that included the teachings of history, English, science, and math. He was against the Washington’s idea that blacks should only be taught a single trade and was not supportive of Tuskegee Institute which did just that. During his life, Du Bois spent all of his time advocating equal rights for blacks. He got involved in numerous organizations and periodicals and made great contributions to history, politics, and lives of blacks.
The Souls of Black Fold promoted self-help, education, and black pride. Du Bois did not want to sit back and watch segregation take over black rights, which Washington believed was okay. Instead he took political action. Du Bois challenged Washington’s approval for black social inequality. He was more of an idealist, scholar, activist, writer, radical, and international diplomat. He wanted equality so he fought for it, he didn’t want to let his people be discriminated.