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Booker T Washington Argumentative Comparison Essay

Pages:4 (1312 words)



Topic:Booker T Washington

Document Type:Essay


Topic: An argumentative comparison of Booker T Washington’s “Speech at the Atlanta Exposition,” and W.E.B. Du Bois', "The Talented Tenth".


Any narrative on African American history is incomplete if one fails to examine the competition between W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington that, between the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, altered the route of America's pursuit of equality, besides ending up facilitating the rise of the contemporary Civil Rights Movement. While both rivals belonged to the very same period, were highly talented academicians, and were activists promoting African American civil rights, they differed with respect to their background and the approach adopted by them which eventually influenced the future the most (Blatty, 2015). In this paper, a detailed examination of both activists' works will be performed, and a few fundamental questions pertaining to the difference in their technique of raising African Americans to a standing equal to that of White Americans will be answered.

The perspectives

Dubois firmly believed in the idea that educating Black Americans was instrumental to elevating their status. In his opinion, this would help put an end to discrimination on the part of White Americans, in addition to safeguarding them against the “contamination and death” that Blacks wreaked upon their own community members. For thus educating Blacks, the strategy proposed was to first identify the most gifted ten percent of members of the African American racial group, followed by nurturing them in America's top colleges in every field of study. The aforementioned privileged subgroup would subsequently perform the role of leading, guiding, nurturing, and educating fellow African Americans (Dubois, 1903). While this seems exceedingly optimistic, one point to bear in mind here is that: the activist realized the tough task ahead in order for accomplishing this objective, and didn’t claim that every single African American would progress to elitism - rather, he believed in industrial training that would help create employment opportunities for those not brilliant enough to acquire a place in the top colleges attended by the abovementioned ten percent of black leaders. Despite maintaining that the sole means of uplifting the African American community was through education, Dubois clearly articulated the import of work for African Americans. His argument was: providing education to working individuals will prove more valuable to industrialism as against keeping him from obtaining education. Education is not just classroom training; rather, it entails provision of all…

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…Washington supported working patiently to accomplish the above goal.

The whites preferred Washington's strategy, especially as they weren’t prepared to actually discuss black political and social equality so soon after ending slavery (Blatty, 2015). The method worked to their (i.e., whites') advantage and was thus met with tremendous enthusiasm on the part of whites, who greatly contributed to Washington's Tuskegee institute. Further, Washington was the adviser and close friend of President Roosevelt.


The perspectives of the activists under study were shaped, to a large extent, by their pasts. Washington, a former slave, understood how to achieve goals by working within limitations. He was able to free himself from a position of slavery all on his own. Therefore, his approach to continue working and momentarily appeasing the whites whilst covertly pursuing the black community’s agenda was shaped by his earlier dealings with whites.

However, Dubois never experienced slavery, and his first experience of racial discrimination only came during his young adulthood. Moreover, being exceptionally bright decreased the amount of inequality he experienced. Hence, he felt education was of utmost importance in gaining equality.

Lastly, while both activists adopted a different approach to tackle the very same issue, this difference caused…

Sample Source(s) Used


Blatty, D. (2015, February 22). W.E.B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington and the Origins of the Civil Rights Movement. Retrieved from Biography:

Dubois, W. (1903). he Talented Tenth. In The Negro Problem: A Series of Articles by Representative Negroes of To-day (pp. 36-43). New York.

Dunn, F. (1993). The Educational Philosophies of Washington, Dubois, and Houston: Laying the Foundations for Afrocentrism and Multiculturalism. Journal of Negro Education, 62(1), 23-24.

Hancock, A.-M. (n.d.). Socialism/Communism. In p. Young.

Washington, B. T. (1895). Speech at the Atlanta Exposition. Atlanta.

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