What was the main debate in setting up colleges and universities for African Americans?

1 Answer
Jul 18, 2016

There were competing visions by Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois.


The last generations born into slavery and the first generation born into emancipation had three main leaders in the late 19th Century, each with a somewhat different vision of how to best benefit African Americans:

  • Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), a radical abolitionist and a living counterargument to the view that Blacks lacked the capacity to function as free citizens, demanded complete equality of the races.

  • Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) advocated the pragmatic but ideologically impure "Atlanta Compromise" which placated the white establishment in return for funding and support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and economic opportunities.

  • W.E.B. DuBois (1868-1963), a founder of the NAACP and a critic of Booker T. Washington, believed in focusing efforts on the "talented tenth," the ten percent of African Americans who could best benefit from a formal education, in the hopes that their progress would inspire and enable others.