W. E. B DuBois’s thoughts on educationThe Souls of Black Folk, written by W.
E. B DuBois is a collection of autobiographical and historical essays containing many themes. DuBois introduced the notion of “twoness”, a divided awareness of one’s identity. “One ever feels his two-ness – an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled stirrings: two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keep it from being torn asunder” (215). There are many underlying themes in this collection of essays. One of the themes that DuBois speaks on extensively is education.
DuBois stresses the importance of education amongst the black race. He believes that African Americans should be educated in order to guide and teach the uneducated blacks. DuBois stresses the fact that there is a need for higher education, the importance of role models, and the concept of self-motivation for the African American race. DuBois wrote an essay in The Souls of Black Folk, which gives his opinion on Booker T. Washington’s views on education.
Booker T. Washington stresses individual education as the way for blacks to gain upward mobility. DuBois disagrees with this. He feels as though blacks first have to gain “the right to vote, civic equality, and education of youth according to ability” (248).
Both Washington and DuBois want the same thing for blacks – first class citizenship but their methods for obtaining it is different. Because of the Smith 2interest in immediate goals contained in Washington’s economic approach, whites did not realize that he anticipated the complete acceptance and integration of blacks in American life. Washington believes that blacks, starting with so little, would have to begin at the bottom and work up gradually to achieve positions of power and responsibility. DuBois understands Washington’s program, but believes that this is not the solution.
DuBois shows opposition to Washington’s approach, not his intent. In the fictional story, “Of the Coming of John”, DuBois rebukes Washington’s ideas of subordination to whites in order to obtain support for black education. The dominant white male of the story speaks the following statement, “Now I like the colored people, and sympathize with all this reasonable aspirations; but you and I both know, John, that in this country the Negro must remain subordinate and can never expect to be equal of white men” (373). This is a fundamental sentiment that white people in the American society during that time held on to. In this essay W. E.
B DuBois shows how this black man, John, was treated in his hometown after returning home with a college education. Both blacks and whites reject his new views. However, to whites the black John represents a devaluing of the college education. If a black person can have a college degree, then having a college degree must not have value. After this reaction from society John started to think, “John Jones, you’re a natural born fool” (369).
This behavior from society kept the average black person stagnant, and unmotivated. Continuing with the famous debate between Washington and DuBois, DuBois argues in “The Training of Black Men” that by training blacks for economic usefulness was not Smith 3enough. Using blacks for manual labor without the benefit of education, culture, and ideas belittled them and suggests that they were less than human. Harmonization of race relations could only occur between two self-respecting, cultured, educated races, not between a dominant elite and a forcibly subordinated, resentful minority.
The minority would be the black people, and the dominant elite would be the white people. DuBois is adamant on his stance that all black people need an education because he feels as though it is only one way to create equality among the people. DuBois shows that education is also another tool that will help raise the veil for future generations. DuBois feels that the idea of a quality education provides a sense of hope for black people.
“I cannot hesitate in saying that nowhere have I met men and women with a broader spirit of helpfulness, with deeper devotion to their life work, or with more consecrated determination to succeed in the face of bitter difficulties than among Negro college – bred men” (280). The Souls of Black Folk is an attempt to define race relations in psychological and philosophical terms. DuBois sets the stage for future generations to follow his lead. Smith 4Works CitedDuBois, W. E.
B “The Souls of Black Folk” Three Negro Classics. New York : Harper Collins Publishers, 1965. 213-389.