Civil Rights Near the Turn of the Century

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What are the shared strategies for W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington?

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In his chapter on Booker T. Washington in The Souls of Black Folk , Du Bois offers some measured praise of Washington, pointing to places where they agree. He notes that Washington has, as times, sent letters to southern legislatures protesting injustice against black people and that Washington has openly...

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In his chapter on Booker T. Washington in The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois offers some measured praise of Washington, pointing to places where they agree. He notes that Washington has, as times, sent letters to southern legislatures protesting injustice against black people and that Washington has openly opposed lynching. Du Bois also agrees with him that blacks must "strive mightily" to improve their own lives. He concurs with Washington's emphasis on thrift and industrial education for black people and admires him for stepping up to the plate and taking leadership in the black culture by trying to find a way to make lives economically better for black people. Du Bois also took on a black leadership position and, like Washington, publicly protested lynchings and other forms of racism.

It is important to note, however, that despite a few similarities, the two men differed profoundly in outlook and strategy. Du Bois was sharply critical of Washington. As he outlines in The Souls of Black Folks, Du Bois rejects Washington's strategy of accepting black inferiority and second-class citizenship in return for modest economic gains. Du Bois believes that this strategy is not only ineffective but corrodes and destroys the black soul. As he writes of Washington's acceptance of subservience to whites:

We have no right to sit silently by while the inevitable seeds are sown for a harvest of disaster to our children, black and white.

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Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois had some shared strategies, even though they later disagreed on the direction of the struggle for equality for African Americans. Both men worked to develop legal strategies to fight the injustices that African Americans faced. Both men also worked together to arrange conferences, both professional and academic. They also wrote essays in the same publications. They also organized the National Negro Business League. They strongly supported the development of African American businesses.

Their goals were to help African Americans deal with the injustices they faced while improving their lives. For a time, both men blamed African Americans for their condition. They believed that self-help and moral improvement were very important qualities for African Americans to pursue. They both believed African Americans should work for economic advancement. They also believed in racial solidarity and working together on economic issues. They were willing to accept voting restrictions based on educational and property qualifications, but not on racial qualifications. They gave economic advancement a higher priority over suffrage rights for African Americans.

While they later differed sharply on how to obtain equality, there was a time when both men shared similar strategies to help African Americans achieve equality and improve their living situations.

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