Views of Booker T. Washington and WEB Du Bois on the status of African Americans offer contrasting perspectives on American society

The views of Booker T. Washington and WEB Du Bois on the status of African Americans offer contrasting perspectives on American society. The authors’ interpretations of their own lives are contrasted with those of each other, as well as the social context during which they lived.

Section: Washington’s Approach to Race Relations


Booker T. Washington believed that the way for Blacks to gain acceptance in American society was to first prove and show their usefulness. He used his own philosophy as a guide for African-American advancement, which he called “ability” theory. In his book Negroes with Guns: Being a History of a Unique School for Boys (1899), Washington wrote: “The success of any business enterprise is directly proportionate to its ability.”

This meant that if you want something done right, you need to find good employees who can do it right. You also have to pay them well enough so they will stay on your team long enough before quitting or getting fired because they found another job offer with higher pay than yours offers them now (this is why some companies choose not give raises every year).

In order for blacks to be able-bodied workers who could contribute economically in today’s world, they had two options: either work alongside white people or go home where there were no resources available like factories producing goods needed by both races living together peacefully together under one roof where everyone benefits from each other’s hard work regardless of race background!


Booker T. Washington was a pragmatist, and believed that Black education should primarily focus on job skills and trades instead of intellectual pursuits. He believed that Blacks should pursue education that would help them earn money, rather than spend time studying topics that were not practical for employment. In his opinion, “the highest type of education possible for the Negro is industrial training.”

Du Bois disagreed with this view because he felt that intellectual pursuits were important to broaden one’s mind and improve oneself as well as society in general; however Du Bois also believed that it was important for African Americans to acquire skills through vocational training programs so they could get good jobs after graduation from college or university (Hampton 1989: 119).


Washington believed that African Americans should purchase land and create their own economy. Dubois believed that African Americans should fight for their rights and not accept anything less than full equality.

Washington’s approach was to accept the status quo and work within the system, while Dubois’ approach was to challenge it from within.


The key to understanding the differences between Booker T. Washington and WEB Du Bois is that they have different views about what this would mean for American society.

Du Bois believed that blacks would be able to prove their usefulness to society by being able to construct their own economy, which would lead them away from dependency on whites and allow them more freedom in terms of employment opportunities and financial security. He also believed that if blacks were able to own land or other assets, they would be less likely than before during slavery times because they had money coming in through renting out property or selling crops grown on those properties (and thus having some sort of income).


Booker T. Washington believed that Blacks should demand full rights immediately, and pursue traditional education; this education would provide them with the tools to fight for equality. Dubois believed that Blacks should demand full rights immediately and pursue traditional education; this education would provide them with the tools to fight for equality.


Dubois saw the lack of civil rights for African Americans as an injustice; he considered that a crime against one group was a harm to all groups, especially since African Americans were forced into slavery by European Americans.

Du Bois’ view of America has been compared to Booker T. Washington’s views on race relations in America because they both believe that education can help people overcome their differences and live together harmoniously. However, Du Bois also believed that African-American leaders should take part in politics instead of just focusing on education or economic development programs; he believed that this would help them gain more power within American society (DuBois 101).


Washington’s approach was more of a “do whatever it takes” approach. He believed that for blacks to succeed in America, they had to work hard and be satisfied with their current state of inequality. Dubois’ view was that African Americans should fight for their rights instead — even if it meant defying those who would oppress them in order not to offend whites (Du Bois had advised blacks to “cast down your buckets where you are”).


Both men hoped that equality could be achieved, but held different approaches. Washington sought to educate blacks to earn money to buy their own land; Du Bois demanded full rights immediately. Washington believed that America was too large and complex for blacks to overcome racism on their own. He suggested that it would take time for them to become economically independent, but if they worked hard enough, eventually they would succeed in gaining independence through education and hard work.

Du Bois was an abolitionist who believed it was impossible for blacks not only to compete with whites financially but also physically in America because of its physical size and strength advantage over black people (Washington). Therefore he fought for equality with both words and actions so that eventually there would no longer be any inequality between races or ethnicities within American society at all!


The debate between these two men is still relevant today, as it raises questions about how we should treat others in society. On one hand, Booker T. Washington believed that the best way to be successful was by working hard at a trade or skill and showing your usefulness to the American community.

Dubois disagreed with him because he felt that education was more important than skills; moreover, he believed that people should demand their civil rights instead of waiting for them to be given to them by whites (as Washington had advised). We can learn from both men’s approaches: General Washington knew what it meant for America when he said “All mankind shall bow down before me,” while Dr. Dubois knew what it meant when he wrote an essay called “What Does It Mean To Be An American?”


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