Reading Comprehension: W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington
In 1903, Du Bois published The
Souls of Black Folk. The Souls of Black Folk is Du Bois's best-known
book. It has also been one of the most influential books of the twentieth
century. In The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois criticized Booker T.
Washington was a well-known black educator. He urged industrial education
for African-Americans. He also founded the Tuskegee Institute. (The Tuskegee
Institute provided industrial training to African-Americans.) Washington
believed that African-Americans would gain respect from the white community
if they had trade skills. He also believed that trade skills were key to
But Du Bois believed that academic education was more important that trade
education. He thought Washington's emphasis on industrial education actually
kept African-Americans trapped in lower social and economic classes by suggesting
they were best suited to service occupations. Du Bois wanted African-Americans
encouraged to succeed in the arts and sciences.
Du Bois and Washington seemed to take opposite sides in the educational debate.
In real life, though, their educational practices were somewhat closer. Courses
at Washington's Tuskegee Institute included basic academics like mathematics
and literacy skills. Meantime, Du Bois was a firm believer in excellence.
He encouraged African-Americans to work hard, regardless of their careers.
The greater difference between the two was their political views. Both Du
Bois and Washington wanted African-Americans to have the same rights as white
Americans. But Du Bois encouraged African-Americans to demand equal rights.
Washington, on the other hand, often ignored discrimination. He believed
that it was important for blacks to develop good relationships with whites.
He was afraid that blacks who demanded equal rights would create ill will
between themselves and white Americans.
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What is Du Bois's most popular
When was it published?
Who does Du Bois criticize in this
What kind of education did Booker
T. Washington recommend?
What kind of education did W. E. B.
Du Bois recommend?
Was Du Bois opposed to African-Americans
excelling at skilled trades? Defend your answer.
Why did Du Bois not encourage trade
How did Du Bois and Washington differ
in their approaches to civil rights?
For Discussion . . .
What are the advantages of industrial
or technical education? What are its disadvantages?
What are the advantages of academic
education? What are its disadvantages?
What are the advantages of fine arts
education? What are its disadvantages?
Would you be more likely to support
Du Bois's educational model or Washington's? Why?
While Du Bois supported education
that emphasized the arts and sciences, he argued that education was NOT for
all people. Instead of educating all people, Du Bois said only the most talented
people should receive an extensive education. These people, once educated,
should invest their lives in improving society. Do you agree or disagree
with Du Bois's argument that all people are not equally deserving of education?
Why might Du Bois's position be logical? What potential problems do you see
with Du Bois's argument?
In what ways were Washington and Du
Bois's approaches to education similar? In what ways did they
Do you think it is possible to reconcile
Washington and Du Bois's approaches? If not, why not? If so, how?
For Further Study . . .
The Souls of Black Folks.
Investigate Du Bois's "Talented Tenth" theory.
Use the search engine below to facilitate your search:
In which of his works does Du Bois
relate his "talented tenth" theory?
What kinds of skills does Du Bois
want to see people develop?
In what ways does he think society
should support those who comprise the "Talented Tenth"?
What duty does Du Bois believe the
"Talented Tenth" has to the rest of society?
How did Du Bois himself contribute
to the development of a "Talented Tenth"?
Does Du Bois advocate the "Talented
Tenth" theory his whole life, or does he ever seem to abandon this theory?
Defend your answer.
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