Booker T. Washington - Biography, W.E.B. Dubois and Facts

Booker T. Washington - Biography, W.E.B. Dubois and Facts

Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) was born into slavery and rose to become a leading African American intellectual of the 19 century, founding Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (Now Tuskegee University) in 1881 and the National Negro Business League two decades later. Washington advised Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. His infamous conflicts with Black leaders like W. E. B. Du Bois over segregation caused a stir, but today, he is remembered as the most influential African American speaker of his time.

Booker T. Washington’s Parents and Early Life

Booker Taliaferro Washington was born on April 5, 1856 in a hut in Franklin County, Virginia. His mother was a cook for the plantation’s owner. His father, a white man, was unknown to Washington. At the close of the Civil War, all the enslaved people owned by James and Elizabeth Burroughs—including 9-year-old Booker, his siblings, and his mother—were freed. Jane moved her family to Malden, West Virginia. Soon after, she married Washington Ferguson, a free Black man.

Booker T. Washington’s Education

In Malden, Washington was only allowed to go to school after working from 4-9 AM each morning in a local salt works before class. It was at a second job in a local coalmine where he first heard two fellow works discuss the Hampton Institute, a school for formerly enslaved people in southeastern Virginia founded in 1868 by Brigadier General Samuel Chapman. Chapman had been a leader of Black troops for the Union during the Civil War and was dedicated to improving educational opportunities for African Americans.

In 1872, Washington walked the 500 miles to Hampton, where he was an excellent student and received high grades. He went on to study at Wayland Seminary in Washington, D.C., but had so impressed Chapman that he was invited to return to Hampton as a teacher in 1879. It was Chapman who would refer Washington for a role as principal of a new school for African Americans in Tuskegee, Alabama: The Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, today’s Tuskegee University. Washington assumed the role in 1881 at age 25 and would work at The Tuskegee Institute until his death in 1915.

It was Washington who hired George Washington Carver to teach agriculture at Tuskegee in 1896. Carver would go on to be a celebrated figure in Black history in his own right, making huge advances in botany and farming technology.

READ MORE: Black History: Facts and People

Booker T. Washington Beliefs And Rivalry with W.E.B. Du Bois

Life in the post-Reconstruction era South was challenging for Black people. Discrimination was rife in the age of Jim Crow Laws. Exercising the right to vote under the 15 Amendment was dangerous, and access to jobs and education was severely limited. With the dawn of the Ku Klux Klan, the threat of retaliatory violence for advocating for civil rights was real. In perhaps his most famous speech, given on September 18, 1895, Washington told a majority white audience in Atlanta that the way forward for African Americans was self-improvement through an attempt to “dignify and glorify common labor.” He felt it was better to remain separate from whites than to attempt desegregation as long as whites granted their Black countrymen and women access to economic progress, education, and justice under U.S. courts:

"The wisest of my race understand that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremest folly and that progress in the enjoyment of all the privileges that will come to us must be the result of severe and constant struggle rather than artificial forcing. The opportunity to earn a dollar in a factory just now is worth infinitely more than to spend a dollar in an opera house."

His speech was sharply criticized by W.E.B. Du Bois, who repudiated what he called “The Atlanta Compromise” in a chapter of his famous 1903 book, “The Souls of Black Folk.” Opposition to Washington’s views on race inspired the Niagara Movement (1905-1909). Du Bois would go on to found the NAACP in 1909.

Because of Washington’s outsized stature in the Black community, dissenting views were strongly squashed. Du Bois and others criticized Washington’s harsh treatment of rival Black newspapers and Black thinkers who dared to challenge his opinions and authority.

Books By Booker T. Washington

Washington, a famed public speaker known for his sense of humor, was also the author of five books:

· “The Story of My Life and Work” (1900)

· “Up From Slavery” (1901)

· “The Story of the Negro: The Rise of the Race from Slavery” (1909)

· “My Larger Education” (1911)

· “The Man Farthest Down” (1912)

Booker T. Washington: First African American in the White House

Booker T. Washington became the first African American to be invited to the White House in 1901, when President Theodore Roosevelt invited him to dine with him. It caused a huge uproar among white Americans—especially in the Jim Crow South—and in the press, and came on the heels of the publication of his autobiography, “Up From Slavery.” But Roosevelt saw Washington as a brilliant advisor on racial matters, a practice his successor, President William Howard Taft, continued.

Booker T. Washington Death And Legacy

Booker T. Washington’s legacy is complex. While he lived through an epic sea change in the lives of African Americans, his public views supporting segregation seem outdated today. His emphasis on economic self-determination over political and civil rights fell out of favor as the views of his largest critic, W.E.B. Du Bois, took root and inspired the civil rights movement. We now know that Washington secretly financed court cases that challenged segregation and wrote letters in code to defend against lynch mobs. His work in the field of education helped give access to new hope for thousands of African Americans.

By 1913, at the dawn of the administration of Woodrow Wilson, Washington had largely fallen out of favor. He remained at the Tuskegee Institute until congestive heart failure ended his life on November 14, 1915. He was 59.

Washington left behind a vastly improved Tuskegee Institute with over 1,500 students, a faculty of 200 and an endowment of nearly $2 million to continue to carry on its work.

READ MORE: 8 Things You Might Not Know About Booker T. Washington


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W.E.B. Du Bois

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W.E.B. Du Bois, in full William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, (born February 23, 1868, Great Barrington, Massachusetts, U.S.—died August 27, 1963, Accra, Ghana), American sociologist, historian, author, editor, and activist who was the most important Black protest leader in the United States during the first half of the 20th century. He shared in the creation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909 and edited The Crisis, its magazine, from 1910 to 1934. His collection of essays The Souls of Black Folk (1903) is a landmark of African American literature.

Who was W.E.B. Du Bois?

W.E.B. Du Bois was an American sociologist, historian, author, editor, and activist who was the most important black protest leader in the United States during the first half of the 20th century. He shared in the creation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

What did W.E.B. Du Bois write?

W.E.B. Du Bois’s notable works included The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study (1899), the first case study of a black community in the United States a collection of essays, The Souls of Black Folk (1903), a landmark of African American literature Black Reconstruction (1935) and the autobiography Dusk of Dawn (1940).

Where was W.E.B. Du Bois educated?

W.E.B. Du Bois graduated from Fisk University, a historically black institution in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1888. He received a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University in 1895.

How was W.E.B. Du Bois influential?

In his work as a black protest leader, W.E.B. Du Bois believed social change could be accomplished only through agitation and protest, and he promoted this view in his writing and in his organizing work. He was a pioneering advocate of black nationalism and Pan-Africanism, and he urged his readers to see “Beauty in Black.”

Booker T. Washington

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Booker T. Washington, in full Booker Taliaferro Washington, (born April 5, 1856, Franklin county, Virginia, U.S.—died November 14, 1915, Tuskegee, Alabama), educator and reformer, first president and principal developer of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (now Tuskegee University), and the most influential spokesman for Black Americans between 1895 and 1915.

Who was Booker T. Washington?

Booker T. Washington was an educator and reformer, the first president and principal developer of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, now Tuskegee University, and the most influential spokesman for Black Americans between 1895 and 1915.

Which college did Booker T. Washington attend?

Booker T. Washington enrolled at the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (now Hampton University) in Virginia (1872), working as a janitor to help pay expenses. He graduated in 1875 and returned to Malden, West Virginia, where for two years, he taught children in a day school and adults at night.

Why did Booker T. Washington establish the Tuskegee Institute?

Booker T. Washington founded the school in 1881 and served as its principal until his death in 1915. This institute inculcated Washington’s principles of providing practical training for African Americans and helping them develop economic self-reliance through the mastery of manual trades and agricultural skills.

What was the Atlanta Compromise speech about?

The Atlanta Compromise was a statement on race relations by Booker T. Washington. In his epochal speech (September 18, 1895) to a racially mixed audience at the Atlanta Exposition, Washington stated that: "In all things that are purely social we can be separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress." This “accommodationist” philosophy disturbed Black intellectuals, who feared Washington’s emphasis on vocational skills was to the detriment of academic development and civil rights.

He was born in a slave hut but, after emancipation, moved with his family to Malden, West Virginia. Dire poverty ruled out regular schooling at age nine he began working, first in a salt furnace and later in a coal mine. Determined to get an education, he enrolled at the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (now Hampton University) in Virginia (1872), working as a janitor to help pay expenses. He graduated in 1875 and returned to Malden, where for two years he taught children in a day school and adults at night. Following studies at Wayland Seminary, Washington, D.C. (1878–79), he joined the staff of Hampton.

In 1881 Washington was selected to head a newly established normal school for African Americans at Tuskegee, an institution with two small converted buildings, no equipment, and very little money. Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute became a monument to his life’s work. At his death 34 years later, it had more than 100 well-equipped buildings, some 1,500 students, a faculty of nearly 200 teaching 38 trades and professions, and an endowment of approximately $2 million.

Washington believed that the best interests of Black people in the post-Reconstruction era could be realized through education in the crafts and industrial skills and the cultivation of the virtues of patience, enterprise, and thrift. He urged his fellow Blacks, most of whom were impoverished and illiterate farm labourers, to temporarily abandon their efforts to win full civil rights and political power and instead to cultivate their industrial and farming skills so as to attain economic security. Blacks would thus accept segregation and discrimination, but their eventual acquisition of wealth and culture would gradually win for them the respect and acceptance of the white community. This would break down the divisions between the two races and lead to equal citizenship for Blacks in the end. In his epochal speech (September 18, 1895) to a racially mixed audience at the Atlanta Exposition, Washington summed up his pragmatic approach in the famous phrase:

In all things that are purely social we can be separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.

These sentiments were called the Atlanta Compromise by such critics as the Black intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois, who deplored Washington’s emphasis on vocational skills to the detriment of academic development and civil rights. And indeed it is true that, during the period of Washington’s ascendancy as national spokesman for African Americans, his race was systematically excluded both from the franchise and from any effective participation in national political life, and rigid patterns of segregation and discrimination became institutionalized in the Southern states. Even Washington’s visit to the White House in 1901 was greeted with a storm of protest as a “breach of racial etiquette.”

Most Blacks felt comfortable with Washington’s approach, however, and his influence among whites was such that he became an unofficial arbiter determining which Black individuals and institutions were deemed worthy to benefit from government patronage and white philanthropic support. He went on to receive honorary degrees from Harvard University (1896) and Dartmouth College (1901). Among his dozen books is his autobiography, Up from Slavery (1901), translated into many languages.

Academic Teaching Career

Du Bois followed his first teaching job at Wilberforce University with a fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania to conduct a research project in Philadelphia’s seventh ward neighborhood. Researching racism as a social system, he was determined to learn as much as he could in an attempt to find the “cure” for prejudice and discrimination. His investigation, statistical measurements, and sociological interpretation of this endeavor were published as "The Philadelphia Negro." This was the first time such a scientific approach to studying social phenomenon was undertaken, which is why Du Bois is often called the Father of Social Science.

Du Bois next taught at Atlanta University, where he remained for 13 years. While there, he studied and wrote about morality, urbanization, business and education, the church, and crime as it affected Black society. His main goal was to encourage and help social reform.

The Contributions of Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. DuBois in the Development of Vocational Education

Nevin R. Frantz, Jr. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The development of vocational education in this nation can be attributed to many individuals. These individuals include leaders from the past such as David Sneden and Charles Prosser to more contemporary individuals such as Carl Perkins. Many of these leaders shared common viewpoints however, others, such as Rickover, were outspoken critics of any form of practical education in the public schools of America.

In the debate over what should be the best system of education for our children, two prominent leaders have been largely excluded from the story documenting the development of vocational education in the United States. These two individuals were outstanding spokespersons for the African-American community in the United States. Their names were Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. DuBois. This article attempts to tell the story of their debate and differences over the role of vocational education in the nation's schools around the turn of the century.

Individual Backgrounds of the Two Leaders

The story begins with Booker T. Washington. Washington was born in 1856 into a slave family in Franklin County Virginia. After emancipation, the family moved to Malden, West Virginia, where Washington was given some instruction in reading and writing by the wife of a mine owner for whom his father worked. In late adolescence, Washington walked to Hampton, Virginia, where he was admitted to the newly-opened Hampton Institute. During his time there, he came under the tutelage of Samuel Armstrong, the president of the institution. Armstrong had established Hampton Institute after the Civil War to educate the freed slaves with a stated purpose of "The instruction of youth in the various common school, academic and collegiate branches, the best methods of teaching them, and the best mode of practical industry in its application to agriculture and the mechanic arts" ( Struck, 1930 ). Washington studied academic subjects as well as the industrial trades such as blacksmithing, carpentry, bricklaying, and agriculture. Following graduation, Washington was invited by Armstrong to become a member of the faculty where he served for two years. In 1881, he was invited to establish a new school in Alabama-the famed Tuskegee Institute. The curriculum that Washington developed at Tuskegee was structured according to the pragmatic philosophy that he received at Hampton Institute ( Anderson, 1988 ). Academic classes were coordinated closely with occupational training. Washington believed that all training derived its meaning and purpose from real problems and could be used to elevate the conditions of the individual students as well as the entire community when they graduated from Tuskegee. Industrial education courses were offered including such trades as foundry, printing, shoemaking, and sawmilling.

W. E. B. DuBois was born in 1868 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, son of well-to-do parents. Great Barrington was a town of middle-class people. There DuBois attended elementary and high school and received a very formal but good education. According to DuBois, he grew up in a town where "the contrast between the well- to-do was not great" ( DuBois, 1968, p. 79 ). At the age of 17 he enrolled in Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. There he studied subjects such as Latin, Greek, English, chemistry, and physics. In the fall of 1888 he entered Harvard University where he graduated with a Ph.D. in 1890. He then studied at the University of Berlin for two years. DuBois was then invited to become a member of the faculty to teach Latin, Greek, German, English, and sociology at Wilberforce University in Ohio. In 1896, he went to the University of Pennsylvania as an assistant instructor in sociology. His major assignment was to investigate the social conditions of the "colored people" in the seventh ward of Philadelphia. From there, until the Spring of 1916, he taught at Atlanta University as professor of economics and history. The program at Atlanta University was designed to open a field of usefulness for African American city dwellers, comparable to what Hampton and Tuskegee had done for rural districts in agriculture and industry.

After assuming their respective positions at Atlanta and Tuskegee Universities, DuBois and Washington began to provide leadership for the educational and economic success of the African Americans in the South. During the process, they developed positions that were used in shaping the direction for the immediate future but remain as influences for educators and social reformers down to the present day. Their backgrounds, while quite different, profoundly impacted their thinking. The well-to-do background and classical education that DuBois received led to a far different path than did the life of Washington, a freed slave and recipient of a very practical education.

In DuBois' case, he came to believe that the only salvation for the "Negro" (as African Americans were then characterized) was to obtain social and economic equality through the education of an elite few who could hold their own in the social and political maneuverings of the day. He was opposed to the Hampton/Tuskegee model and wanted African American youth to "hitch their wagons to a star" rather than "to a mule" ( Lewis, 1993, p. 353 ). DuBois believed that Southern African Americans "must have trained and educated leadership if civilized was to survive. The object of education was not to make men carpenters but to make carpenters out of men" ( Aptheker, 1973, p. 64 ). DuBois believed that a "higher education of the Talented Tenth who through their knowledge of modern culture would guide the American Negro into a higher civilization" ( DuBois, 1968 ).

Contributions of Booker T. Washington

The most visible contribution of Booker T. Washington was the establishment and development of the Tuskegee Institute for the education of African Americans. It served as a laboratory school for Washington's philosophy of education. His contributions, however, extended well beyond his work with formal educational institutions. When Washington went to Tuskegee, he readily recognized the deteriorating condition of agriculture in the area. While attempting to address the problem, he realized that the farmers would need specific forms of assistance. To address this need, he developed two forms of education that exist and thrive today. These two concepts are adult and extension education. In serving the adults of the area, Washington developed programs that addressed the needs of the local farmer, increasing the production of food and fiber. He procured a wagon, outfitted it with tools and information, and delivered information to farmers at their home locations. Through this system of extending on-campus programs to adults, he extended the Tuskegee idea and helped make the farmers self-sufficient and productive contributors to society. Washington's efforts at accommodating the needs of the African Americans into the white power structure and society were criticized severely by other black leaders such as DuBois. Washington's notion of accommodating and developing the practical skills of African American men and women is his most lasting legacy and contribution in the growth and development of vocational and technical education in the nation.

Contributions of W. E. B. Dubois

The contributions of DuBois, although not as direct, were nevertheless important in the development of education and vocational and technical education in particular. He sought to strike a balance between liberal and practical education for African Americans. His thought and efforts were instrumental in giving the higher education institutions of the South a more balanced approach to the education of freed slaves and their children. Although his education of the Talented Tenth is considered now, by some, to be an elitist approach, he nevertheless advocated the preparation of youth for work as a worthwhile outcome for the masses. The leadership he provided in the formation of the NAACP was, in later years, a major factor contributing to the Supreme Court's decision ruling against the segregation of the schools. This decision provided the foundation for vocational educators to integrate programs and youth organizations. This placed the field in a solid position to expedite the preparation of a diverse workforce with the occupational and the social skills needed to succeed in the workplace.

Summary and Conclusions

The lives of these two great African American leaders are important and inspirational. Although their backgrounds were quite different, they shared a common dream of delivering African Americans from a life of economic servitude and social backwardness. They shared a common vision and many of their ideas contributed significantly to the progress of their people. The contrasting approaches of the two leaders fueled debate among the two for years.

Essentially the same debate was conducted in the white community between John Dewey and Charles Prosser. The debate continues and is reflected in the legislation passed by Congress, originally in the form of the Smith-Hughes Act, and is reflected today in the provisions of the Carl D. Perkins Act for Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act of 1990. Washington and Dubois were instrumental in shaping the debate which will continue and enrich the discussion of which type of education is of most value for generations to come.


Until his passing, Nevin R. Frantz, Jr. was Professor, Department of Vocational Industrial and Health Occupations Education, Virginia Polytechnic and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia.

Selected References

Anderson , J. D. (1988). The education of Blacks in the South . Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

Aptheker , H. (1973). The education of Black People: Ten critiques 1906-1960 . Amherst, MA: The University of Massachusetts Press.

Denton , V. L. (1993). Booker T. Washington and the adult education movement . Gainesville, FL: The University of Florida Press.

DuBois , W. E. B. (1968). The autobiography of W. E. B. DuBois . New York, NY: International Publishers, Inc.

Lewis , D. L. (1993). W. E. B. DuBois: Biography of a race . New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company.

Struck , F. T. (1930). Foundation of industrial education . New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons.

Thornborough , E. L. (Ed). (1969). Booker T. Washington . Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

W. E. B. Du Bois and the NAACP

W. E. B. Du Bois was the first black recipient of a Ph.D. from Harvard University. In The Souls of Black Folks, published in 1903, he argued for "manly" and "ceaseless agitation and insistent demand for equality." He demanded a curriculum of liberation for Black people, not subordination, which is how he described the Hampton/Tuskegee approach — known as “accommodation”--espoused by Booker T. Washington. Du Bois rejected accommodation as the best response to the stark racial segregation which enveloped America. Jim Crow had been concretized by Plessy v. Ferguson, the 1896 U.S. Supreme Court decision that sanctioned the principle of "separate but equal" facilities for African Americans and whites.

W.E.B. DuBois (VMHC E185.5 D81)

Du Bois became director of publicity and research for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), founded in 1909. The legal arm of the NAACP led the campaign to end segregation altogether, but it first targeted inequality in education. It helped win the admission of a black student to the University of Maryland Law School because that state did not have such an institution for Black students. Virginia and other southern states immediately adopted a policy of giving scholarships to black students to attend professional and graduate schools outside the state. That practice was eventually rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court, in December 1938, and Richmond editor Virginius Dabney said the decision "severely jolted" the South's educational system.

In October 1938 the NAACP filed suit over the fact that Black teachers in Norfolk were paid less than their white counterparts. In Alston v. School Board of the City of Norfolk, a federal court ruled that this discrimination was based on race alone and thus violated the "equal protection" clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. The decision was met with delays, evasions, adoption of subjective criteria for evaluating teachers, and other methods of resistance, so that Black teachers went from being paid one-half of white salaries to two-thirds, but not to full equality until 1952.

Knowledge Becomes Opportunity

Washington was born Booker Taliaferro, enslaved, in rural Franklin County Virginia in 1856. His mother, Jane, served as a cook and his father was a local white man whose identity remained a mystery. Of his paternal lineage, Washington had little knowledge except that he “was a white man who lived on one of the near-by plantations.” Under slavery, Washington grew up in “the most miserable, isolate, and discouraging surroundings.” He had two siblings, an older brother named John and a sister named Amanda. According to Washington, their mother “snatched a few moments for our care in the early morning before her work began, and at night after the day&aposs work was done.” Washington was five when the Civil War began and about nine-years-old when he received his freedom. Like many newly freed individuals, the family left the site of their enslavement looking for opportunities. They migrated 200 miles by wagon and foot to Malden, West Virginia where Washington and his brother worked with their stepfather in salt and coal mines and Washington also made extra money working as a janitor.

Booker T. Washington speaking to a crowd in New Orleans, 1915

Photo: Arthur P. Bedou/Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images

When he was 16, Washington traveled 500 miles to attend Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Hampton, Virginia. In college, he learned how economic development could be economic nationalism and the importance of religion, personal hygiene, and public speaking. After graduation, he studied law and theology and in 1881 he became the founder and first principal of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama, today known as Tuskegee University. Washington was successful in expanding Tuskegee’s land, staff and enrollment. The school offered training in farming, brick making, blacksmithing, and carpentry, as well as vocational skills such as cooking, canning and cleaning. While leading the school, Washington suffered several personal losses including the deaths of his first two wives (Fanny M. Smith and Olivia Davidson) and a son (Ernest Davidson). His third wife, Margaret Murray was with him until his death.

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Booker T. Washington

Booker T. Washington was born to a slave family in Virginia a few years before the Civil War. When he was nine years old, he and his family were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. As a young man, he enrolled as a working student at the Hampton Institute. His rise to prominence began when he became the first leader of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, a teachers’ institute.

In 1895, Washington gave the Atlanta Exposition Speech, where he suggested a compromise between southern white leaders and the African-American community. He urged black Americans to join the workforce, saying that the American south needed their skills and work ethic. He called for southern whites to provide industrial and vocational education and legal protection for southern blacks. In return, southern blacks would tolerate discrimination, segregation and racist behavior and would not demand the right to vote.

Washington was a skilled political operator with black and white supporters. He was also an educator who trained African-Americans in useful occupations. They could then use these to be accepted as productive members of American society.

W.E.B. DuBois

W.E.B. DuBois was born in 1868 to a free black family in Massachusetts. He rarely experienced racial discrimination. He attended Fisk University and Harvard University, earning a bachelor’s degree in history at the latter. After college, he attended the University of Berlin and returned to Harvard for his PhD, thus becoming the first African-American to get a doctorate from Harvard.

As an academic, DuBois performed research on black communities in Philadelphia. As a result, he concluded that racial segregation was the 20th century’s largest problem. In 1905, DuBois and other prominent civil rights leaders formed the Niagara Movement, advocating equal rights for African-Americans.

For much of his life, DuBois worked at Atlanta University, where he did historical research and wrote articles and editorials for a number of publications. His efforts culminated in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, passed after his death.

Know Your History: BLM Debate Was Settled Years Ago Between Du Bois and Washington

The Black Lives Matter movement has revealed an ideological rift within the black community.

While many support the revolutionary Marxism of the movement, there is also increasing support for conservatism, traditional values and even President Donald Trump.

The black community has leaders on both sides of the debate, with left-leaning spokespeople such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson facing off against Larry Elder and young up-and-coming conservatives like Candace Owens.

In fact, it goes back over 100 years to the lives of African-American leaders Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) and W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963).

Booker T. Washington vs. W.E.B. Du Bois

Washington was a former slave who worked his way through school with high grades before founding the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, (now called Tuskegee University) according to his profile.

Similarly, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois developed a passion for academics, becoming the first African-American to earn a PhD from Harvard before co-founding the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, his own Biography profile says.

The two accomplished academics were known for their debate over which method would help the black community the most — gaining economic skills through hard work or combating the racism of America with protests, activism and a Marxist restructuring of society.

While Washington’s philosophy of self-help and hard work resembles the rhetoric of the conservative black leaders of today, Du Bois’ approach mirrors that of the BLM movement.

Du Bois Wanted To Tear Down the System

Much like the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement, Du Bois was a self-described Marxist.

By the end of his life, according to a 1961 article in The New York Times, Du Bois went as far as to join the Communist Party USA.

“Until the Russian Revolution, Karl Marx was little known in America. He was treated condescendingly in the universities, and regarded even by the intelligent public as a radical agitator whose curious and inconvenient theories it was easy to refute,” Du Bois wrote in a 1933 article titled “Marxism and the Negro Problem.”

“Today, at last, we all know better, and we see in Karl Marx a colossal genius of infinite sacrifice and monumental industry, and with a mind of extraordinary logical keenness and grasp.”

Additionally, Du Bois’ far-left ideology was reflected in his support of black nationalism, which eventually lead to a split between him and the NAACP.

“In 1934, Du Bois resigned from the NAACP board and from The Crisis because of his new advocacy of an African American nationalist strategy that ran in opposition to the NAACP’s commitment to integration,” Du Bois’ bio on the NAACP website says.

Washington Believed in Hard Work And Education

Directly opposed to Du Bois’ beliefs, Washington believed that integration and the end of racism could be achieved through the hard work of African-Americans themselves, rather than through activism and a redistribution of wealth.

Washington understood that it wasn’t a lack of wealth that primarily afflicted impoverished African Americans, but instead a lack of market skills.

“No race that has anything to contribute to the markets of the world is long in any degree ostracized. It is important and right that all privileges of the law be ours, but it is vastly more important that we be prepared for the exercise of these privileges,” Washington said during his famous Atlanta Exposition Address in 1895.

“The opportunity to earn a dollar in a factory just now is worth infinitely more than the opportunity to spend a dollar in an opera house.”

PragerU, a nonprofit organization that creates educational videos about Judeo-Christian principles, produced a video narrated by Project 21’s Derryck Green that explores the life of Washington.

“[Washington] was first, last and always a pragmatist. He believed gradual improvements, improvements that blacks would earn through education, entrepreneurship and personal responsibility, were the keys to black empowerment and ending racism,” Green said in the video, which was released last month. “It wasn’t fair, but it was reality.”

“Today, in an America that is open to and accepting of all races, Washington’s prescription for black success is more relevant than ever. That made him a great leader and a prophet.”

History Proved Washington Was Right and Du Bois Was Wrong

In the America of today, Washington’s philosophies have been proven to be correct, whereas Du Bois’ have had a crippling effect on the black communities where they’ve been implemented.

Racial bias is not nearly as much of an impediment to those in poverty as bad decisions are.

Two think tanks on different sides of the political spectrum, the left-wing Brookings Institution and the right-wing Heritage Foundation, agree on the most successful formula for escaping poverty: finish high school, marry before having children and get a job.

That last step, getting a job, is made difficult by the welfare state — policies which redistribute wealth to the impoverished in much the same way that the Marxist systems lauded by Du Bois would.

Respected economist Thomas Sowell explained the devastating effects of welfare in a 2015 column.

“Non-judgmental subsidies of counterproductive lifestyles are treating people as if they were livestock, to be fed and tended by others in a welfare state — and yet expecting them to develop as human beings have developed when facing the challenges of life themselves,” Sowell wrote.

“Behavior matters and facts matter, more than the prevailing social visions or political empires built on those visions.”

If Americans take the time to thoroughly examine the lessons of history, we would all know that the remedy for impoverished Americans of all colors isn’t offering free handouts or defunding the police.

The solution certainly isn’t fighting the unproven, invisible ghost that is “systemic racism.”

Instead, it is hard work, family values and improved educational opportunities.

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Niagara Movement

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Niagara Movement, (1905–10), organization of black intellectuals that was led by W.E.B. Du Bois and called for full political, civil, and social rights for African Americans. This stance stood in notable contrast to the accommodation philosophy proposed by Booker T. Washington in the Atlanta Compromise of 1895. The Niagara Movement was the forerunner of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In the summer of 1905, 29 prominent African Americans, including Du Bois, met secretly in Fort Erie, Ontario, near Niagara Falls, and drew up a manifesto calling for full civil liberties, abolition of racial discrimination, and recognition of human brotherhood. Subsequent annual meetings were held in such symbolic locations as Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and Boston’s Faneuil Hall.

Despite the establishment of 30 branches and the achievement of a few scattered civil rights victories at the local level, the group suffered from organizational weakness and lack of funds as well as a permanent headquarters or staff, and it never was able to attract mass support. After the Springfield (Illinois) Race Riot of 1908, however, white liberals joined with the nucleus of Niagara “militants” and founded the NAACP the following year. The Niagara Movement disbanded in 1910, with the leadership of Du Bois forming the main continuity between the two organizations.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Jeff Wallenfeldt, Manager, Geography and History.

Watch the video: Booker T. Washington Vs. Du Bois