Why did DuBois believe that economic and political progress for African Americans were inextricably linked? Why did Washington think the two could be separated? 

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Dubois believed that white Americans would never allow black Americans into higher paying, higher status professional careers like medicine, the law and academia, or even careers involving skilled labor. He believed this because in the South, these fields were explicitly closed to African Americans, who needed special permits or licenses in order to enter those fields. One could only obtain such documents from local government officials, who adamantly opposed allowing blacks into these professions. Moreover, almost all universities in the north and south excluded African Americans, either by explicit policy or practice. These schools were the gateways into most professions, so being denied entry to those schools was tantamount to being denied a career in the law, medicine or academia.

As a result, Dubois felt that the only way for African Americans to gain true economic parity with whites was by taking up prominent roles in professions such as medicine, law, academia and government. Dubois understand that the majority of white Americans would not allow this to happen by choice; African Americans would have to gain entrance to these fields by getting laws passed that would ban discrimination in these fields. 

Carver, on the other hand, believed that African Americans could become integral parts of the American economy by taking jobs that required simple, technical skills, and that by slowly working their way into the fabric of the American economy. By doing so, Carver believed that African Americans could prove their worth and eventually convince white Americans to let them participate in the political process. Carver worried that if Blacks pushed for political power too soon, on top of economic freedoms, this would create a backlash, and perhaps result in African Americans getting neither.

For Carver, who was a natural-born inventor and entrepreneur, the notion of securing economic stability before venturing into the political realm, reflected his own particular experience. For Dubois, who helped to found all-Black colleges to help African Americans enter professional careers, the idea that black Americans could wait patiently and hope that good behavior would result in political enfranchisement, was absurd. Dubois understood that African Americans had to fight not only for the vote, but also run for and win elected office, to change how they were treated, and to gain equality under the law. For him, waiting and hoping for white Americans to “do the right thing” was not an option.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial