What was the difference between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois?

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Bob K. Share
Aug 6, 2016

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They had competing visions for how to best help the most African-Americans possible in the late 19th-early 20th Century.

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Both men wanted full equality and social justice for all African Americans, but realized that entrenched attitudes and interests prevented this from happening. They had differing ideas for how the most people could be helped within the constraints that existed at the time.

Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) advocated the pragmatic "Atlanta Compromise" which placated the white establishment in return for funding and support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and economic opportunities. This earned him the scorn of ideological purists, but it got schools opened and businesses started.

W.E.B. DuBois (1868-1963), a founder of the NAACP and a critic of Booker T. Washington, focused his efforts on the "talented tenth," the ten percent of African Americans who could most likely benefit from a formal education. The rest were, unfortunately, beyond his purview.

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