Contrasting the Proposals of
Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois
United States History 1828 - 1914
Instructor Stewart King
Clackamas Community College
February 7, 2012
Accommodation vs. Integration
In March of 1895, Booker T. Washington delivered his now famous Atlanta Compromise Speech. In brief, Washington proposed that blacks accept segregation and focus on getting jobs rather than demanding equality. He also proposed that blacks concentrate on learning trades and how to work with their hands – not necessarily in becoming book smart. Perhaps even more central to his message, Washington argued that if blacks focused on equality they would never make it ...view middle of the document...
It should be remembered that America as a nation was only one generation removed from the Civil War and that the South was still suffering the devastation from having lost the war. Blacks represented more than one-third of the South’s population and were largely regarded as a threat to the Southern way of life. Blacks, as a whole, were largely uneducated and untrained in any trade or industry outside of agriculture. Many blacks also felt they were due just compensation for over 200 years of slavery. So, from the white perspective – particularly a Southern one, all of a sudden there was a large, angry population of blacks who were expecting all the rights and privileges of living in a free society. To white Southern society, it had to be major culture shock.
Given the luxury of hindsight, I believe that Washington may have been trying to downplay white fears and suspicions, in the hope that blacks could gradually work their way into society. DuBois, on the other hand, seemed more willing to tackle the issues of racism and inequality head-on. Perhaps he felt that if the white North was willing to fight to abolish slavery, then blacks should ride the wave of momentum and not simply settle for freedom, but demand equality.
As for which proposal was more reasonable, it is a question that needs to be...