Celebrating Black History Month: W. E. B. Du BoisBooker T. Washington

"I believe in Liberty for all men; the space to stretch their arms and their souls;
the right to breathe and the right to vote, the freedom to choose their friends,
enjoy the sunshine and ride on the railroads, uncursed by color; thinking,
dreaming, working as they will in a kingdom of God and love."

The Souls of Black Folk (1903)

Reading Comprehension: W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington (Advanced)
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.

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 economic security.

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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Comprehension Questions

For Discussion . . .

For Further Study . . .
Read It!
Read online The Souls of Black Folks.

Investigate It!
Investigate Du Bois's "Talented Tenth" theory.

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