In his famed critique of Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois provides a critical voice that helps to explain the full experience of those fighting for racial equality in pre-Civil Rights America. In some respects, DuBois is fair to Washington. DuBois makes a significant effort to account for the difficulties faced by Washington in his own efforts. DuBois notes, “In the South especially has he had to walk warily to avoid the harshest judgments,—and naturally so, for he is dealing with the one subject of deepest sensitiveness to that section” (DuBois). In this, there is the recognition from DuBois that Washington’s actions have been, at least in part, motivated by the contours of the political situation around him. DuBois’s take can be seen as fair and balanced given the way in which he also condemns the thinking of Washington. DuBois’s chief critique, it seems, is that Washington does not recognize the change around him, and that Washington’s opinions are not best suited for the changing economic tide. DuBois notes, “Mr. Washington represents in Negro thought the old attitude of adjustment and submission; but adjustment at such a peculiar time as to make his programme unique. This is an age of unusual economic development, and Mr. Washington’s programme naturally takes an economic cast, becoming a gospel of Work and Money to such an extent as apparently almost completely to overshadow the higher aims of life” (DuBois). In this, DuBois is noting that Washington fails to see that black people in America had an opportunity to leverage their political impact. Rather than simply submitting, as white people might have wanted during that time, black people could demand better treatment by demonstrating to the prevailing white power base that black people were a valuable part of the overall economy. In both of these ways, DuBois is fair in dealing with Washington.
- Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt. Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others. ProQuest Information and Learning, 2005.
- Harris, Thomas Edward. Analysis of the clash over the issues between Booker T. Washington and WEB Du Bois. Garland Pub., 1993.