Today, I thought I’ll do something fun. I would like to do a few of these so let’s call this part one. Let’s see who was at war and why. Of course, we have to start with the famous rivalry of all time:
W.E.B. Dubois vs. Booker T. Washington
Yecheilyah sits in a chair with papers as W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington step into the ring. Dubois adjusts his tie, shaking hands with members of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People….am I the only one who finds it odd this organization still refers to us as Colored people?? Deuteronomy 28:37…anyway, as usual, I digress lol).
Washington sits in a chair. Surrounded by students, he crosses his legs and flips through a book.
“Ya know,” Washington looks up, “I’ve read The Souls of Black Folk. I must say I am not very impressed.”
Dubois brushes lint from his jacket, “I didn’t think you would be.”
EC: *Clears throat*. Alright gentlemen. We’re about to start.
NAACP members and students step down from the ring and sits in the audience with those reading this blog.
Washington puts his book to the side. “Noted”, he said staring at Dubois. “Besides, I must say Yecheilyah, I love what you’re doing with your work. It is my belief that we should be accountable for ourselves in every way.
“Booker, your proposal”, interrupted Dubois, “that we should take accountability for ourselves is not only unfounded but also paradoxical. It would be difficult for Negros to gain any real power, for instance, if they are denied the right to vote.”
Washington put up a hand, “IF, Negros had real power, it would be in education in the crafts, industrial and farming skills and ownership of their own businesses.”
“And how, Mr. Washington, do you suppose Negros could operate these businesses sufficiently without an education?”
Washington sighs, “I do not care to venture here an opinion about the nature of knowledge. It is clear to anyone who reflects on the matter that the only kind of knowledge that has any sort of value for a race is knowledge that has some definite relation to the daily lives of the men and women who are seeking it.”
Dubois throws his hands into the air, “You’re promoting submissiveness by asking the Negro to relinquish fundamental privileges. First, you ask him to relinquish his political rights and then his civil rights. This only speeds up the process to which Negros have regressed.”
Washington stands, pointing his finger at Dubois “You’re taking my words out of context. I am simply stating that it is my aim to teach students to live a life and make a living by which after they graduate they can return to their homes and find profit and satisfaction in building up the communities from which they’ve come.”
EC: Gentlemen, please. We don’t have time for this. I respectfully ask for you to both be silent so that we can give the people a little bit of a background on you. Is that alright?
NAACP member runs up to ring, hands Dubois a drink of water as he loosens his collar and takes a drink. Member returns to his seat among the bloggers, “I concur. Let’s move on”, said Dubois.
Washington returns to his seat, crosses his legs, “Indeed.”
As you can see, these two were not besties. Tensions always existed among Black intellectuals and Blacks who were more grassroots and this separation exists today. W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington are great examples of this.
William Edward Burghardt DuBois was born free in 1868 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts in an integrated community. He attended local schools and excelled in his studies. When Dubois finally encountered racism, the experience changed him and he decided to further his education with a focus on equal rights for Black Americans. Dubois was the first Black man to earn his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1895.
Cheers erupt from members of the NAACP. Dubois takes a bow.
Booker T. Washington was born into slavery in 1856 in Virginia. After the Civil War, he worked in a salt mine and as a domestic for a white family and eventually attended Hampton Institute, one of the first all-black schools in America. After completing his education, Washington began teaching and in 1881 was selected to head The Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama. The school’s purpose was to give African Americans practical, hands-on skills and would later be known as Tuskegee University.
Whistles come from Washington’s students. He waves.
Dubois wanted to focus on creating an educated black intellectual class he called The Talented Tenth, in which ten percent of the intelligent of the race would lead and guide the direction of the other ninety percent.
Dubois: That is right. Political power and sovereignty should remain important.
*Washington rolls eyes*
Washington on the other hand, born into slavery, thought former slaves and their descendants should be financially independent and that black communities could prosper only by way of owning their own businesses.
Washington: Indeed. Blacks should elevate themselves through hard work and material prosperity.
Both sought to advance the plight of African Americans and by the early 20th century both Washington and Dubois were two of the most influential Black men in the country. However, their ideologies were very different. Dubois was more focused on education and civil rights as the only way to achieve equality. Washington was more grassroots and focused on fundraising for the Institute and teaching young people how to work with their hands, farm, and entrepreneurship. Dubois and Washington’s differences came to a head in 1903…
Washington: How do you young people say it now? ‘Bring that up.’
Dubois: Let’s hear the entirety of the matter first.
EC: Umm. If I can just finish this real quick. I’m almost done.
Washington: May I ask a question?
EC: Sure, of course.
Washington: What is a Bestie?
EC: Its just short for like Best Friends.
Washington: I see. And I assume one would have to be friends first before they are best friends. Am I correct in this assumption?
Dubois: You are taking up all the time.
EC: We do need to move on but I’d love to explain it to you later.
Washington: I would like that.
*Dubois shakes his head*
The men go silent. Smiles and waves at readers.
Dubois and Washington’s differences came to a head in 1903 when Dubois published The Souls of Black Folk where he directly criticized Washington and his approach.
EC: That’s a little below the belt, don’t you think?
Dubois: Well, Negros should stand up against Washington’s contentions.
Washington: I am not going to justify that with a response.
Dubois: Then don’t respond.
Washington: Do not tempt me, Mr. Dubois.
EC: Well, that’s our time. Gentlemen, thank you, both for taking the time out of your super busy schedules to have this discussion. I know you have lives to save. Literally. I do hope you can find some common ground.
Washington: I doubt it.