Illustration of W. E. B. Du Bois

The Souls of Black Folk

by W. E. B. Du Bois

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What is Washington's view on agitation as a strategy for social equality in The Souls of Black Folk?

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In The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois makes it clear that he and Booker T. Washington do not share the same position regarding the African-American pursuit of social equality.

According to

Washington's "ideas posed what DuBois considered an imperfect middle ground between the legacy of slavery and the expansion of freedom for blacks. Washington argued that blacks didn’t immediately need all of the freedoms granted them under emancipation and that it might be wiser to cede some of these freedoms in the short term in favor of sharing the American quest for economic development." For DuBois, this kind of attitude only solidified the "veil" that existed between black America and white America.

Since Washington is well-known for his 1895 compromise speech, it is unlikely that he approved of social agitation of any kind. In the speech, he urges African Americans to accept their position as socially inferior and to strive for personal improvement through vocational training while foregoing political power and higher education. As a Harvard-educated scholar, Du Bois was certainly not in agreement with this strategy.

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