The turn of the 20th century was an important period for the Black American community. It was during this period that the Blacks were freed from slavery, and thus they began enjoying their rights as citizens of America. During this period, most of the Black Americans lived in the South, and they mainly provided labor in farms owned by the Whites. Furthermore, most of the Black American children did not attend school. Booker T. Washington and Dubois gave their proposals on how the Blacks would attain their freedom and empower themselves economically. This essay contrasts the proposals from these two philosophers.
Speech of Booker T. Washington
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Booker T. Washington delivered his speech at a Cotton Exposition State in Georgia. The audience attending the trade fair consisted of Southerners, Northerners, and Black people. During this period, the Black Americans were fighting for their civil and political rights. However, he encouraged the black Americans to start by finding their economic stability by collaborating with the White people since the Black Americans were in a foreign land. He gave an example of a ship lost in the sea, and it sighted a friendly vessel. The lost ship asked the friendly ship for water, but the friendly ship replied that it should cast it buckets into the sea in order to get water (Harlan 583). When the lost ship cast its buckets into the sea, it was able to get fresh water. Using this example, he encouraged the Black Americans to cast their buckets and make friendly relations with the Southern white men in order to prosper in a foreign land. Furthermore, he encouraged his people to consider beginning from the bottom and not from the top. He argued that when they put this mentality in their heads, they would be comfortable living by the proportion of their hand. Booker T. Washington told the White people to cast down their buckets and work with the Black Americans. He argued that the Black Americans helped the white people since they tilled their land, cleared their forests, and built their cities. He claimed that collaboration between Negroes and Southerners would lead to their peaceful coexistence. He stated, “…make interests of both races one. In all things that are purely social, we can be as separate as fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress (Harlan 586).”
Ideas of DuBois
Contrary to the ideas presented by Booker T. Washington, DuBois argued that it was only through persistent agitation, political action, and academic education that the Black Americans would achieve their freedom. He wrote an essay titled “Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others”. In this essay, he argued that the program that Washington proposed encouraged the Blacks to give up their insistence on civil rights, political power, and higher education for the Negro youth. Furthermore, he argued that the program proposed by Washington was a failure since it had a narrow scope in its objectives (DuBois 174). He also stated that this program devalued the study of liberal arts, ignored social injustices, political and economic oppression of the Blacks. According to DuBois, it was important to train all the Black Americans on liberal arts since he believed that Black leadership had to originate from college-trained backgrounds. He stated, “He is striving to make Negro artisans businessmen and property owners, but this is utterly impossible under modern competitive methods” (DuBois 176). Moreover, he claimed that Washington faced a paradox in his career since he advocated for a common school and industrial training thus depreciating institutions of higher learning. He argued that the White people had to give the Blacks three important rights for the Blacks to enjoy their freedom. These rights were the right to vote, the right to civic equality, and the right to education of the Negro Youth according to their ability. He argued that the Black Americans would not receive these rights if they exercised patience that Washington encouraged them to exercise. Moreover, he stated that the Blacks had a duty to oppose things that did not benefit them. He stated, “ ….North or South, does not rightly value the privilege and duty of voting, belittles the emasculating effects of caste distinctions, and opposes higher training and ambition of our brighter minds” (DuBois 178).
I think both approaches are great responses to the situation of the Black America at the turn of the 20th century. However, the approach proposed by DeBois needs to be phased where the Black Americans will fight for their rights in a gradual process so that they are given the power to vote. Furthermore, during this process of implementation, the Blacks will train their people on how to be leaders and thus they will form successful leaders. After the implementation of the approach proposed by Debois, then the Black people can implement Washington’s proposal. From this proposal, they will concentrate on gradually empowering themselves economically in order to attain full freedom.
The proposals from Dubois and Washington gave solutions on how the Blacks could free themselves and empower themselves economically. Washington proposed that the Blacks had to work hard in order to improve their economic condition. He argued that they had to accept their inferior condition and slowly work for their economic freedom. In contrast to this, DuBois argued that it was their right to enjoy political freedom, and thus they should demand for it from the Whites.