The Difference in Views on Race Relations in America Between W.e.b. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington

February 3, 2021 by Essay Writer

The ideas of W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington sit on two different sides of the spectrum for fixing race relations in America following reconstruction. W.E.B. Du Bois ideas for race progression for African Americans were “radical” because he called for political action, persistent agitation, and academic education would be the best way to achieve full citizenship rights for African Americans. Du Bois wanted three main things for African American citizens first, the right to vote second, the education of African American youth, and third he wanted civic equality. While Booker T. Washington’s ideas were “conservative” because he called on white America to provide jobs and industrial-agricultural education for African Americans, then African Americans would have to give up civil rights and social equality. His message to fellow African Americans was that political and social equality is less important than economic respectability and independence. Washington’s leading belief was that if African Americans could prove to whites that they were useful and helpful to the country that they would eventually be treated equally and have the same rights as whites in America.

W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington didn’t disagree on everything they shared common beliefs for the advancement for African Americans for example, both believed that the economic advancement of African Americans was more important than universal manhood suffrage. Both also strongly believed in racial solidarity and economic cooperation. They also both placed a heavy emphasis on self-help and moral improvement. Even though W.E.B. Du Bois heavily disagreed with Booker T. Washington’s ideas he still had a great respect for him. The following quote shows that Dubois had respect for Booker T. Washington ideals when he stated ‘One hesitates, therefore, to criticize a life which beginning with so little, has done so much. And yet the time is come when one may speak in all sincerity and utter courtesy of the mistakes of Mr. Washington’s career as well as of his achievements, without being captious or envious, and without forgetting that it is easier to do ill than well in the world’.

In The Souls of Black Folk. Booker T. Washington was born into slavery in Virginia in the year 1856. He was a founder and principal of Tuskegee Institute, a normal and industrial school in Alabama. From the years 1895 to 1915 he was one of the most influential leaders for African Americans at the time. Booker T. Washington believed that after reconstruction the best approach for African Americans to become equal was to accommodate white Americans and by doing so meant accepting segregation and disfranchisement. He wanted African Americans to start focusing on farming and industrial skills so they could obtain economic freedom. Booker T. Washington’s called for white Americans to work to decrease racial violence, and support African American success in agriculture, industry, and business.

In 1901 Booker T. Washington was invited to the Whitehouse by President Teddy Roosevelt for dinner. News of the dinner between a former slave and the president of the United States became a national sensation and Teddy Roosevelt fell under heavy scrutiny for having dinner with a former slave in the white house. For Booker T. Washington education, employment, and self-reflection were the way towards racial equality. W.E.B. Du Bois was born in Massachusetts, in 1868. He attended Fisk University in Nashville, a school for African American students. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics gave Du Bois a job in 1897. This job helped create studies on black Southern households in Virginia, which uncovered how slavery still affected the personal lives of African Americans. Du Bois would do four more studies for the bureau, two in Alabama and two in Georgia. He originally was not opposed to Washington’s agenda. But from 1901 to 1903 his philosophy transitioned. DuBois thought that Washington’s program had become unbearable. Du Bois published a collection of essays that attacked Washington’s outlook in a collection of essays, The Souls of Black Folk, in 1903. Du Bois started the “radical” protest movement for civil rights for African Americans. He thought that political action, insistent tension, and education would be the way to reach true citizenship rights for African Americans. He stressed the necessity for liberal arts training because he believed that black leadership should come from college-trained backgrounds. The conflicting ideas of Washington and Du Bois can be seen in current day American politics.

The Democratic Debates that were held last week highlighted Democrats and their view on righting social injustices that are still a result of racism in America. Unfortunately, this is a continual battle to right the wrongs that have been imposed on African Americans and other minorities in America. We are still trying to fight the injustices in prison and corrupt police that prevail on the streets of poor Americans that are predominately African Americans. It will take strong voices like DuBois to help eradicate racism in the modern-day United States so we can move forward with equality among races. In summary, I agree with W.E.B. Du Bois ideas because they are far more effective than Booker T. Washington’s because if no one was complaining about the racial injustice then nothing would have been fixed. But at the end of day Du Bois and Washington both wanted the same thing for African Americans full rights and equality. They both just had different ideas for achieving that dream.

Works Cited

  1. “The Debate Between W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington.” PBS, Public Broadcasting dtService, 1998,
  2. Gibson, Robert A. “Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. DuBois: The Problem of Negro Leadership.” 78.02.02: Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. DuBois: The Problem of Negro Leadership, 2018,
  3. “Booker T. Washington.”, A&E Networks Television, 9 July 2019,
  4. “W.E.B. Du Bois.”, A&E Networks Television, 10 Sept. 2019,
  5. Staff, NPR. “Teddy Roosevelt’s ‘Shocking’ Dinner With Washington.” NPR, NPR, 14 May 2012,
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