Essay: African American Leadership Styles

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  • Subject area(s): History
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  • Published on: 10th June 2012
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African American Leadership Styles

African American Leadership Styles W.E.B Dubois Versus Booker T Washington
W.E.B. Dubois has been a very important and strong advocate for racial equality for African Americans and their fight for racial equality. W.E.B. Dubois however is totally opposed to the thought process and actions of Booker T Washington another African American leader whose beliefs are that the African American should focus on wealth and conform to what white America thinks the Negro should be. The issues that the American Negros faced during the time period of 1895-1915 were challenges and frustration as seen from the perspectives of two African American leaders trying to achieve a common goal but with drastically different approaches. Based on the articles from W.E.B. Dubois book 'The Souls of Black Folk', 'the issues that were identified raised heated questions between Booker T Washington and W.E.B. Dubois' (Dubois). Initially Washington established himself as the dominant spokesperson for African Americans and had beliefs that for Negroes to advance they would have to learn to be accommodating in their struggle for their rights. Washington also believed and taught Negroes to achieve its goals by being peaceful, and to utilize democratic means to encourage change (Dubois; chp.3).
Based on the Background of Booker T Washington and his philosophy which was based on pleasing the thought of white oppression by advising blacks to trust the control of southern whites and basically accept things for what they were with whites being the superior race. 'Washington stated mutual interdependence of blacks and whites in the South, but said were to remain socially separate' (Dubois). Based on Washington's message to blacks he conveyed a message that blacks should remain in the south, obtain a useful education, work hard and save their money, purchase property and coexist with their white suppressors. By accomplishing these things Washington strongly believed the Negro would eventually earn full citizenship rights. Based on Washington's teachings white America responded positively and later made him the national Negro leader. Washington continued to preach his lessons to the Negro community and also wrote an autobiography Up From slavery which covered the career of Washington bolstering himself as the national black leader. Washington later became very powerful with his teachings earning the friendship of such businessmen like Andrew Carnegie. During this time many of the other Negro leaders voiced their opinions against Washington's views of compromise.
W.E.B. Dubois was a major opponent of Washington, born in Massachusetts in 1868 Dubois's family never experienced the issues of slavery for over a hundred years. Dubois was a graduate from Fisk University, and Harvard University where he earned his PHD in history. Dubois background stemmed from being an economics professor at Atlanta University, where he conducted a series of sociological studies on the conditions of African Americans in the south while at the same time Washington developed his industrial education program. Initially Washington and Dubois were in accord on all of the issues facing the Negros in the south in fact Dubois thought that Washington's message to blacks in reference to being self-sufficient was very accurate. Both men also agreed that the Negroes current condition can only be blamed on them. Later however the views of Dubois on Washington changed drastically because of a transition that saw Dubois growing to find Washington's program to be insupportable when it came to the importance of liberal arts education which was Dubois focus and Washington's focus on industrial education. Dubois goes on to argue that Washington has basically been given to much power and only uses it for his own advantages and not for the up lifting of Negroes.' Dubois further states that Washington was a limited misguided leader' (Gray).
Dubois soon had support of several black leaders and the black people also as a whole. Dubois launched a well formulated attack against Washington using his stage to promote the advancement of Negroes and to focus on civil rights and higher education, rather than political power. Dubois believed Washington's policies led to the disfranchisement of the Negro, and the distinct status of civil inferiority of the Negro (Dubois; chp.3). Dubois states that persistent agitation, political action, and academic education would be the means to achieve full citizenship rights for black Americans (Dubois; chp.3).

The article was very successful in providing the supporting information to prove W.E.B. Dubois position and his ethos on the advancement of the Negro which was much more successful than his counterpart Booker T Washington. He stated facts based on his education which made the information provided valid.

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