Looking back through United States history, one of the most significant intellectual battles was the well-known debate between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois. The debate caught the attention of both the Northerners and the racist whites that lived in the south. The “Great Debate” regarded how the free blacks should live in America with the white majority. Despite the fact that both men had opposing views, they were both fixed on one idea- that change was necessary when it came down to the treatment of African Americans.
Respectively, these men wanted equality between the blacks and the whites throughout the nation. Jim Crow Laws and other governmental rules are what made segregation prominent. This is what gave out the idea that blacks were inferior to the white people.
Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois were important African American educators that wanted blacks to have an easier access to education, yet had opposing views. Both supported civil rights and worked on improving education and attempting to bring an end to discrimination.
Booker T. Washington addressed beliefs of self-help, racial unity and housing. He frequently overlooked discrimination, and firmly believed in developing good relations with the white folk. Washington believed that if blacks used the knowledge that they already knew (example: farming) and continued to educate themselves and work hard that eventually they would win the respect of the whites. By gaining respect, they will then be accepted in society.
Booker T. Washington also believed that simply focusing on equality would not take them anywhere in that society. He believed that if African Americans got a better education and looked into trade and finance, they would become economically more sufficient, and therefore more accepted to the communities. It was known that there would be segregation and discrimination between blacks and whites. Booker T. Washington believed that instead of fighting that policy, blacks should just accept it and work with it.
In the other hand W.E.B. Dubois’ argued that social change may possibly be successful by expanding the small group of college educated African Americans. He encouraged that blacks demanded their equal rights, and believed that you could not have social and economic rights unless you had political rights to defend them.
W.E.B. Dubois also believed that blacks should be granted the same education and political rights as the white people. Unlike Booker T. Washington, Dubois felt that they should demand their rights, and fight for what they stood for. The way they could do this was to encourage one another in the course of educational progression and political rights.
In that period, Booker T. Washington would be known as the most reasonable leader. He would be more reasonable, due to the fact that during that time, segregation was not uncommon. The whites firmly believed that blacks would never get at their level nor equal to them. Since Booker T. Washington suggested that blacks should just accept this idea and work with it, it automatically gave him the upper hand over DuBois.
The “Great Debate” might be long over, but unfortunately racism is still very well and alive today. It saddens me, but many people to this day still do not fully accept the African American culture. We are still fighting for equality!
In brief, both men presented diverse tactics for dealing with the problems of segregation and discrimination when it came to deciding on how blacks should be able to live in America. Booker T. Washington said that it was best to accept being less then and making the best of the situation, at the same time WEB DuBois demanded additional direct equality for African Americans. Two different ideas, one common goal- to make the lives of blacks better in the United States of America.