WEB DuBois vs. Booker T. Washington
Washington and DuBois were two influential leaders of the black community in the late 19th and 20th century but they disagreed on how black people should progress. Washington, born a slave, preached a philosophy of self-help, racial solidarity and accommodation, according to a report by PBS.
“He urged blacks to accept discrimination for the time being and concentrate on elevating themselves through hard work and material prosperity…This, he said, would win the respect of whites and lead to African Americans being fully accepted as citizens and integrated into all strata of society,” the report added.
DuBois, however, disagreed with the stance taken by Washington. Coming from a privileged background, Dubois worked on improving the condition of African Americans, but he wanted to do this by working with liberal whites through his organization, the NAACP. Believing that Washington’s approach could perpetuate white oppression, DuBois argued that social change could be reached by developing the small group of college-educated blacks he called “the Talented Tenth:”
“The Negro Race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men. The problem of education then, among Negroes, must first of all deal with the “Talented Tenth.” It is the problem of developing the best of this race that they may guide the Mass away from the contamination and death of the worst.”
According to the PBS report, the Washington/Du Bois dispute even polarized African American leaders into two wings – the ‘conservative’ supporters of Washington and his ‘radical’ critics.