My Thoughts On The Issue

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade December 2001

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W.E.B. and Booker T.

        The African-Americans who attempted to make an immediate leap from slavery to freedom in the post-Civil War United States did not land comfortably in the golden fields of liberty. The initial pride and assertiveness that accompanied such a victory of character led them to extend their hands into facets of American society which they themselves were not yet prepared. Mercilessly, the African-American again found himself inescapably exploited by white society at the turn of the 19th century. With the enactment of Jim Crow and "separate but equal" laws, their new world ruthlessly resembled the old one.

        At the same time, two diverging philosophies emerged which sought to educate blacks on why their initial progress dissipated, and how they could permanently regain it. At the Atlanta Exposition, Booker T. Washington delivered an address to an audience of primarily white citizens in a rather appeasing tone. His message portrayed the potential of the African-American population while outlining the steps his people would take in achieving it.

According to Washington, the only way to reach social, economic, absolute equality under the law was to start low, but aim high. There was to be no hurdling the process of making oneself into a prosperous individual, and political rights were not to be demanded until they could be exercised competently. Exemplifying this, he said, "No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem" (Washington, 220). In essence, he urged the African-American community to progressively alter the de facto standards and practices of the South.

        W.E.B. Du Bois, however, had his own idea of how Southern blacks and whites should deal with the abundance of inequality and discrimination. Delineated in "The Souls of Black Folk," his strategy included immediate...