What Were The Crucial Differences In The Ideologies Of Du Bois And Washington And Which Of Them Do You Think Contributed Most To The Advancement Of African Americans In The Early Twentieth Century?

2552 words - 11 pages

Black life in the early twentieth century was mainly dominated by the effects of Jim Crow tantamount to 'lynching, disenfranchisement, discrimination and other oppressions' . A full African-American citizenship had not been achieved yet and the population was split into different camps by two charismatic political figures who both tried to improve the situation for African-Americans: Booker Taliaferro Washington and William Edward Burghardt Du Bois. With their ideas and powers they tried to reshape the political, social and educational landscape in the post-Reconstruction South.To understand the differences in the ideologies of these two men, one must have a closer look at their origins and ...view middle of the document...

After all, it becomes clear that Booker T. Washington, in his capacity as statesman and educator, embodied the way of living in the agricultural south like no other man at his time. His personal experiences and origins made him the advocate of a more practical down-to-earth approach to African-Americans problems and only by his strong will and the aid of white supporters, he eventually became the strong pragmatic leader figure in the African-American struggle for freedom.The exact opposite of origin and development can be detected in looking at historian, socialist and political activist W.E.B Du Bois' background and curriculum vitae. He was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, in 1868. Descending from a family of free blacks "with French Huguenot, Dutch and Negro origin" , he did not grow up in the agricultural south, but in a white-majority neighbourhood in the urban north of the country. This enabled him to gain access to a very different kind of education than Washington was offered. On earning a scholarship from Fisk University in Tennessee, for the first time, Du Bois saw himself confronted with a black majority. So it became inevitable that this experience should be the one, where he "began to cultivate his identity as Afro-American" . And, indeed, these influences finally led to his famous view on the double self-consciousness of the American Negro, expressing the constant quest for identity of this people:"One ever feels his two-ness - an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings [...]."With this model in mind and being constantly aware of this phenomenon, he followed up his academic career. After obtaining several scholarships and gaining special experience in the fields of social sciences during his biennial studies in Berlin, he finally earned his PhD from Harvard University as the first African-American scholar ever receiving this honour. On establishing "his academic reputation as sociologist" with his study on "The Philadelphia Negro", he worked as professor at several universities. Not only then, but ever since, Du Bois had been characterised by a high motivation for political activism which, on the long run, enabled him to found several institutions to support and improve Blacks' concerns. Among these, one could find the National Negro Committee or the Niagara Movement; and in 1910, Du Bois finally realised the formation of one of the most important intellectual organs for the advancement of Blacks in the early twentieth century, the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP). In the end, this sketch of Du Bois' academic career which was usually rather typical for white students, and the manifold scholarly influences during these times explain, how he, in comparison to Washington, had become such an ardent advocate of a more theoretical or political approach to the problems African-Americans had to face.Now that the backgrounds of Washington and Du Bois are clarified, it...

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