Accommodation or agitation, the long held question that has been a force throughout African American history dividing people on the best solution on how to go about creating change in society. Booker T. Washington and W.E.B DuBois, prominent leaders in African American communities in the late 19th and 20th century would be another case of accommodation versus agitation. These two figures had the same goals for people of color, further progressing and integrating the race as a whole into all strata of society. Although, Booker T. Washington’s and W.E.B DuBois’ divergent propositions to addressing black inequality would be flawed as they were both unable to recognize the importance of the other sides arguments, making both propositions one sided and oblivious to the shortcomings of their solutions.
In Booker T. Washington’s propositions he encourages African Americans to compromise and endure discrimination for the time being while focusing on further progressing in social and economical aspects, through careers in crafts. Booker T. Washington believed that African Americans needed to suspend the idea of political success for economic success as it would pave way to integration into society and overall racial success, this proposition would fail to foresee the detrimental consequences discrimination and prejudice would have on the road to economic and social success. In “The opportunity here afforded will awaken among us a new era of industrial progress. Ignorant and inexperienced it is not strange that in the first years of our new lives we began at the top instead of the bottom:that a seat in Congress or the State Legislature was more sought than real estate or industrial skill; that the political convention or stump speaking had more attractions than starting a dairy farm or tuck garden”. Booker T. Washington emphasizes the failures of African Americans “at the top”; in political power after Reconstruction, based off this trivial time in history Booker T. Washington decides it would be more beneficial for African Americans to start from the “bottom”. This combined with his fears that agitation would have white Americans assume that African Americans were plotting an insurgence would deviate his strategy away from politics. This would ultimately reduce the effectiveness of Booker T. Washington’s propositions as at that time economic success and political success would go hand in hand, Booker T. Washington’s inconsideration to the impact of political success on his proposition for addressing black equality would flaw his proposition.
W.E.B DuBois proposition for addressing black inequality would be to educate and develop “the talented tenth”, ultimately having them gain respect of white Americans showing they are just as capable while leading other African Americans. W.E.B DuBois believed that economic success wasn’t as important to helping gain equality, he believed that having college educated leaders leading African American communities was the best solution to gaining equality. Although, showing African Americans are capable of the same feets in education as white people would have some impact on obtaining equality, but this proposition by W.E.B DuBois would end up leaving out the other ninety percent of African Americans. “The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men. The problem of education, then, among Negroes must first of all deal with the Talented Tenth; it is the problem of developing the Best of this race that they may guide the Mass away from the contamination and death of the Worst, in their own and other races.” W.E.B DuBois proposition being mainly focused on the “talented tenth” essentially have no recourse for the average African American as his plan is centered on the “talented tenth” leading the masses to achieve political success. Even if political success is achieved it is not certain that the average African American benefits from it.
Both propositions from Booker T. Washington and W.E.B DuBois were ultimately flawed as they only had half the recipe, although, their half baked propositions would lead African Americans down the path to racial equality, economical success and political success.