The question was “How could they advance?” There is a twelve-year age difference amongst the two gentlemen. I could see the difference that a decade could make in the mindsets of the two gentlemen. Washington is the elder of the two. He was apart of the slavery system not merely a product of it. He was a slave who was freed. A man without neither a history, nor a surname to call his own. Du bois was born into a system of freedom. He never experienced having a master or the lack of freedom to move about as he pleased. He came into the world and saw problems. He didn’t see the long path that had been traveled to get them to the point that they were at currently.
Therefore these men saw different ways of accomplishing their goals as a race. In Booker T. Washington’s autobiography Up From Slavery , he shares with the reader an abundance of information as to how he became the man he was. He was born on a plantation in Franklin County, Virginia. At the earliest moments of his life, he was a laborer, cleaning the yards, carrying water, and taking corn to the mills. Booker T. Washington talks about the burden of freedom. He talks about the attitudes of the slaves towards their masters after emancipation. When the slaves learned they were free there was a feeling of excitement, followed by one of the reality that they were now responsible for providing for their families, shelter, food, clothing and a better way of life.
He talks about the connection and bond that they continued to share, as the slaves began to prosper and the master and his family began to suffer.
Washington remembers his new life in West Virginia. The part where is education was put on the back burner as a result of a need of income to support his family. But he also remembers his will and determination to gain an education at any cost. This resulted in him going to school at night and traveling several miles in order to gain a proper education. Washington eventually gained an education at Hampton University, and went on to teach. He was also head of Tuskegee University. Mr. Washington’s life experience’s taught him that everything has a time and a place. He painted a picture of a boy in a filthy room with torn and ragged clothes, reading a French book. He believed that man must have skills and should be able to provide for himself and his family. He was speaking of economic freedom. He was speaking of working with white people, to try to make a better place for both races. In many ways, I think he felt it was more important to have food on your table rather than books in your hands.
Mr. Washington knew that in order for African-Americans to prosper, whites would have to be involved. In order for a man to get up off the ground he must first convince the man holding him down to take his foot off his throat. Mr. W.E.B. Du bois was indeed a scholar and revolutionary. He was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He was a graduate of Fisk University and the first Black to receive a doctoral degree from Harvard University. Du Bois’s research into the historical and sociological conditions of black Americans made him the most influential black intellectual of his time. His book The Souls of Black Folk written in 1903 is a powerful collection of essays, in which Du Bois describes the efforts of African- Americans to reconcile their African heritage with their pride in being U.S. citizens.
In this book he also contended that Washington’s push for African-Americans to relinquish political strength and the quest for civil rights temporarily for the building of wealth was wrong. Du bois believed that “he right to vote, civil equality and the education of youth according to ability were more important than the accumulation of wealth. Du bois felt that if the ignorant white man could vote so should the ignorant black man. Du bois continued to fight for the rights of African- Americans. He was instrumental in the founding of the NAACP. One was conservative. One was idealistic. One was a politician at heart. One was an abolitionist born too late.
Both saw the importance of education. They just differed on what kind of education was most important to their race of people. The main goal was the advancement of their people.
In both men’s cases, their insight and ideas did so much in the aiding of our advancement as a race of people and as a culture within a culture. They were both two great men with the same problem, with different solutions.