Civil Rights Movement
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C I V I L R I G H T S M O V E M E N T
Washington/DuBoisThe Negro problem was the exclusion of the segregatedNegro masses from the group life of American society. There weretwo causes to this problem: racial prejudice and the cultural, social,economic, and educational backwardness of the Negro. It was onlyby addressing these issues that they could gain their rights andmove towards integration. While African-American leaders agreedthat these issues needed to be addressed, there were disagreementsas to the best course of action in attaining these goals. SomeAfrican-American leaders preached submission and acquiescenceto Southern whites; while others had a more direct approach thatargued that equality and rights must be fought for constantly. It isby analyzing Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois that wecan understand the reasoning behind the different ways that thesetwo men saw and handled the Negro problem
Booker T. Washington, educator, reformer and the most influentional black leader of his time (1856-1915) preached a philosophy of self-help, racial solidarity and accomodation. He urged blacks to accept discrimination for the time being and concentrate on elevating themselves through hard work and material prosperity. He believed in education in the crafts, industrial and farming skills and the cultivation of the virtues of patience, enterprise and thrift. 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. W.E.B. Du Bois, a towering black intellectual, scholar and political thinker (1868-1963) said no--Washington's strategy would serve only to perpetuate white oppression. Du Bois advocated political action and a civil rights agenda (he helped found the NAACP). In addition, he argued that social change could be accomplished by developing the small group of college-educated blacks he called "the Talented Tenth:"
Two great leaders of the black community in the late 19th and 20th century were W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington. However, they sharply disagreed on strategies for black social and economic progress. Their opposing philosophies can be found in much of today's discussions over how to end class and racial injustice, what is the role of black leadership, and what do the 'haves' owe the 'have-nots' in the black community.