What is the main difference between the teachings of W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington?

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Booker T. Washington delivered an important speech in 1895 in which he outlined his views on civil rights. This speech, the so-called "Atlanta Compromise," was delivered to an overwhelmingly white audience. Washington called upon black citizens to achieve economic prosperity rather than fighting for full political and economic equality. He...

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Booker T. Washington delivered an important speech in 1895 in which he outlined his views on civil rights. This speech, the so-called "Atlanta Compromise," was delivered to an overwhelmingly white audience. Washington called upon black citizens to achieve economic prosperity rather than fighting for full political and economic equality. He seemed to accept racial segregation when he stated: "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." Wealthy whites backed Washington's approach.

W.E.B. Du Bois was an ardent critic of Washington's moderate approach. The result was a split in the movement. The two men attempted to resolve their differences by meeting in 1904. Despite initial success, the attempt to reconcile their two views failed.

By the mid-twentieth century, the civil rights movement became very powerful under leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. King and other leaders of the civil rights movement were much more influenced by Du Bois than Washington.

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The main difference between the teachings of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois is that Washington advised African American people to first pursue economic gains before they pursued economic and educational gains. He thought that African Americans should find jobs that would be useful to the white community and then use this utility to improve their lot. However, Du Bois believed that African Americans should fight for complete political equality with whites and should not wait to achieve equality. He believed that educated African Americans, called the Talented Tenth, should play a role in pursuing political and educational equality for African Americans. Therefore, Du Bois pushed for immediate political and educational equality for African Americans, while Washington wanted to pursue gradual improvement of African Americans' situation. In addition, Du Bois wanted African Americans to fight for their own equality, while Washington believed that whites would grant African Americans opportunities over time.

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The main difference between the teachings of W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington lies within their beliefs regarding the best way to achieve progress within the African-American community.  Booker T. Washington believed that the best path to African-American progress resided within a temporary acceptance of the racial discrimination aimed at them.  He thought that even though they were free from slavery, African-Americans should continue to seek work in crafting and agriculture.  That is, they should continue to hone the labor and farming skills that were once forced upon them in order to earn and save money and perhaps even begin to create businesses for themselves.  He believed that this would help them to gain the respect of the white community, which would eventually bring about an end to racism and racial discrimination.

W.E.B. Du Bois, on the other hand, believed racism and oppression would only continue if African-Americans followed Booker T. Washington’s plan.  Instead, Du Bois believed that African-Americans should begin to pursue further education.  In his essay collection The Negro Problem, he advocated for a “talented tenth” of the African-American population to become leaders of the race via education, leadership, and social activism.  Later in his life, Du Bois came to realize that progress could emerge in a number of ways, and that the contributions of those who didn’t pursue a traditional education were also integral to social progress.

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