two prominentAfrican American leaders, Booker T. Washington and W. E. B.
Du Bois arose toaccomplish one goal, education for all African Americans. During the turnof the century, between the years 1895 and 1915 there were many theories ofhow African Americans were going to achieve first-class citizenship. Withtwo separate views on how to accomplish this goal, the African Americancommunity was split in half on who to support. While Booker T. Washingtonbelieved in industrial and agricultural labor, W. E.
B. Du Bois proposed astrategy of pursuit through higher education in order to gain first-classcitizenship for the African American race. Born the son of a slave, Booker Taliaferro Washington was consideredduring his time to be the spokesman of the African American race. Washington believed that if African Americans focused their attention onstriving economically they would eventually be given the rights they wereowed. With this in mind, he encouraged blacks to attend trade schools wherethey could learn to work either industrially or agriculturally. At hisfamous Atlanta Exposition Address in Atlanta he declared, “Our greatestdanger is that, in the great leap from slavery to freedom, we may overlookthe fact that the masses of us are to live by the productions of our handsand fail to keep in mind that we shall prosper in the proportion as welearn to dignify and glorify common labor, and put brains and skill intothe common occupations of life.Order now
. . “. His suggestion was one that the Negrorace was familiar with. The southern and northern whites accepted his planbecause it acknowledged the inferiority of the black race.
The Negro”Okayed” it because it was a way of life better than being haunted by thestagnation of sharecropping. With this statement, Washington stressed thefact that: “. . . the opportunity here afforded will awaken among us a newera of industrial progress”. He made a point that we as African Americanscan achieve the rights we want if we present ourselves useful to the whiterace.
Washington stated, “No race that has anything to contribute to themarkets of the world is long in any degree ostracized. It is important andright that all privileges of the laws be ours, but it is vastly moreimportant that we be prepared for the exercise of those privileges. Theopportunity to earn a dollar in a factory just now is worth infinitely morethan the opportunity to spend a dollar in an opera house”. Along with thiscame the conclusion that you had to befriend the southern white man.
Washington made it known that befriending the white man was imperative toending the black man’s struggle. He said, “To those of my race who dependon bettering their condition in a foreign land, or who underestimate theimportance of cultivating friendly relations with the Southern white manwho is their next-door neighbor, I would say: Cast down your bucket whereyou are; cast it down in making friends, in every manly way, of the peopleof all races by whom we are surrounded”. All this and more was said inAtlanta, Georgia, the first time in history where a black man had everspoken in front of so many white people. It was apparent to every AfricanAmerican who did not totally agree with Washington’s idea that this was asign of submission for the black race. The submissive part, if none else,was where the conflict came in.
Washington sent the message that if AfricanAmericans were going to come up; they would have to continue to use theirhands as a means to be productive in a white society. Feeling that that wasthe only way they could fit into a society was seen as failure to some andled them to support another leader. Labeled as a radical, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, had a solididea for African American progression. Described variously as the “mostoutspoken civil rights activist in America,” and “the undisputedintellectual leader of a new generation of African- Americans”, Du Bois wasconsidered the inspiration for the literary movement known as the HarlemRenaissance. Known as the “Talented Tenth”, in his essay he mentions theNegro race, like all races, being saved by its exceptional men”. Du Boisbelieved that if a small group of black persons attained college educationsthey would be leaders of the race and encourage the rest to do the same andreach a higher level of education.