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W.E.B Du Bois And Booker T. Washington, Two Different Approches To Early The Civil Rights Movement

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In the early history of the civil rights movement two men, Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois, offered solutions to the cold discrimination of blacks in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Washington taking the more incremental progressive approach was detested by Du Bois who took the radical approach of immediate and total equality both politically and economically. And although both views were needed for progress Washington's "don't rock the boat" approach seemed to be the most appropriate for the time.

In 1890 the percentage of 5-19 year olds enrolled in school for whites was approximately 60% while the percent of blacks was roughly half that, which was a vast improvement over just thirty years before when black enrollment hovered near zero. That same year the illiteracy rate of the white population was at 10% while the percentage of the black population unable to read spiked at 60%. Both Washington and Du Bois recognized the gap but took completely different approaches to achieve a remedy. Washington himself was educated in Hampton, a Freedman's Bureau school. Some called him "the champion of education" as he went on to form the Tuskegee Industrial School, for his view on education was very "practical". "no time was wasted on dead languages or superfluous studies of any kind". Such was the philosophy of Washington; teach the black skills that will improve them economically and the rest of equality will follow. Du Bois rejected this philosophy stating that Washington was "condemning their race to manual labor and perpetual inferiority". Others however seemed appreciative of Washington's work. One man stated, "It is impossible to estimate the value of such a man". Still others agreed with Du Bois when they said that "he [blacks] knows by sad experience that industrial education will not stand him in place of political, civil and intellectual liberty".

"Sad experience" however, is something that Washington knew all about. Growing up a slave collecting pennies under board walks to go to school, Washington knew and understood all too well how deep the prejudices against his race ran, noting that the number of blacks lynched in 1894 was at its highest at nearly 170 people he believed that perhaps some time apart (segregation) was what was best at that particular point. He stated accommodatingly to white southerners in his famous Atlanta Compromise speech "In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress". In this speech he laid waste to fears of the "threat"

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