Free «Midterm: Political Equality, Booker T. Washington and Du Bois» Essay Sample

Plessy vs. Ferguson (1896)

In 1890, the state of Louisiana passed a law calling for people of black and white races to use different railway coaches within the state. The committee of citizens with the help of Plessy challenged this racial segregation law in the court, citing a violation of the amendments of the U.S. constitution that were against discrimination. The Supreme Court by a majority of seven to one upheld the law, stating that it did not imply inferiority of the black but defended the doctrine of “separate but equal”.

Tom Watson

As a lawyer, editor, and politician, Tom built his reputation as a leftist and advocated for the unity of the underprivileged black and white people against the elites in the 1890’s. During this period in politics, he pushed for a legislation, which required the postal service to deliver mails to rural farmers. Tom Watson, however, changed his political views in the 1900s and identified himself as a white chauvinist and was engaged in incessant attacks on Jews and the black.

Dubois Concept of “Double Consciousness”

The notion was introduced in 1903 via his book The Souls of Black Folk, which defined double consciousness as the feeling of having more than one social identity. During this era, Du Bois felt that the regime in which African-Americans lived oppressed and devalued them. At the same time, the culture encouraged equality and dignity. This forced the black to view themselves from the perspectives of both cultures and, hence, disabled them from discovering their true identity.

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Democratic Party and KKK

In the early 1900s, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was widely viewed as a terrorist arm of the Democratic Party. This gang was widely spread in the southern states and it mainly targeted its attacks on leaders of the Republican Party. Their aim was to destroy the organized mechanisms of the Democratic Party, restore white supremacy, and enhance every aspect of racial subordination.


This is an agricultural system whereby a person who owns land allows a tenant to use it for certain duration and repay, giving back a portion of the harvest yielded on this area. Sharecropping became wide-spread across the cotton planting South in the 1870s, during the reconstruction period just after the civil war. It arose as a result of the conflict over labor when white landowners sought to restore the labor force while released Black Americans sought economic freedom and autonomy.

Southern Populists and Republicans

The Populist Party was created in 1891 in America amid poor people and sharecroppers of white cotton and wheat located in the South and in the Plains States respectively. Its formation was stimulated by the low prices for agricultural produce and the high interest rates on advances and trains. They encouraged alteration and transformation of domestic policies that would counter the depreciation of prices of cultivated products. Following the period of strong influence between 1892 and 1896, it was dissolved in 1908.

Tuskegee Institute

This is a national historical location situated in Tuskegee, Alabama. It was initially formed for black tutors by Booker T. Washington in 1881 with the aim of availing black students with education, life skills, values, and a spiritual life. Such teachers would then be urged to assist people of their community in forming innovative ideas and putting more effort in farming as well as in their ethical and spiritual lives.

Atlanta Compromise

Booker T., together with other activists and white leaders of the South, signed the Atlanta Compromise in 1895 in a bid to ensure that all African-Americans had access to education and were subjected to a fair process in law. In return, colored people would work with humility and obey governmental laws that, nevertheless, gave privileges to the white. It was criticized by other black leaders who felt that the immediate struggle for civil rights was crucial. As a result, its cohorts moved towards civil rights advocacy following the death of Washington in 1915.

Knights Labor, Rich VA

This labor institution was popular among many associates in the early 80s. Under the leadership of Terence V Powderly, it advocated for social and cultural improvements to laborers, abolition of racism and communism, 8 hours of work daily, and campaigned for the laborer’s political beliefs. It had approximately 800,000 members but collapsed in 1949. Many critics believed that it failed since it promoted violence.

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The Talented Tenth

This concept was explained by Du Bois who believed that there was a high probability that one out of every ten black men could become a leader of African- Americans with the help of various means, such as good education.

Part Two: Question#2


The following discussion focuses on examining Washington and Du Bois’ views on the various issues that affected black people after the reconstruction period. It further explains the similarity and differences of their philosophical approaches to the discussed issues as well as their relationship as leaders of African-Americans between themselves and various classes of Euro-Americans.

Booker T. Washington’s Views

Washington advocated for a moderated and measured approach to the issues that he felt aggrieved him. He believed that African-Americans had to concentrate on industrial education because it would equip them with skills for the jobs that were available at that time, since most of the colored population lived in the South, which was largely rural and agricultural. His views on education were vindicated by the fact that he was the founder of the Tuskegee Normal and Agricultural institute, which trained teachers.

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Economically, Washington propagated a self-help philosophy, which was viewed as conservative by other black people’s rights advocators. He championed accumulation of wealth acquired from doing industrial jobs as this would, in the long term, create stability that was required for African-Americans to progress. In addition, he stressed that black capitalism within the capitalist system was the surest way to guarantee the long term empowerment of black people.

In terms of political rights, he reasoned that Africans had to sacrifice some of their potential political power and civil rights, such as disenfranchisement, so as to position themselves as responsible American citizens and, eventually, gain full participation in the society. He stated that this approach was a preliminary step to the realization of full equality under the law. He also felt that a measured approach towards the demand for these rights would reduce the anti-black violence caused by racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.

His view on leadership in African Communities in the USA was modeled by reasoning on his philosophy of moderated approach. Unlike his greatest critic and opponent, Du Bois, who advocated for the rule by the ‘talented tenth’ as the surest way for African-Americans to get their rightful place in the society, Washington insisted that their possibility to lead themselves would come with time; once they established themselves as indispensible members of the American society through the industrial skills that they would have acquired.

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Washington was of the view that the colored people got it wrong during the reconstruction period that was between 1876 and 1878. He was befuddled by the craze for learning Greek and Latin as well as the desire to hold positions in offices. He was astonished because most people thought that obtaining even very little would free them form the world’s hardships. He further felt that uneducated Negroes in government positions were bound to make tremendous mistakes.

Du Bois’ Views

Being the first African-American to be awarded a PhD from Harvard University, Du Bois firmly believed that education was essential not only for white people but also for black since they all, regardless of social status, had a “talented tenth”. He asserted that liberal education, in addition to industrial academics, was important. For this reason, he was against the idea that black people who were illiterate had to be given an opportunity to vote. He said that the ultimate goal of schooling was not solely to earn money or to acquire mechanical abilities because this would generate people who make money and handicrafts. The goal of education was to promote humanity, which would equip candidates with wisdom, understanding, awareness of the world, and a human being’s relation to it. He further added that it was only then that men who were bread winners, skilled and fast thinkers, would achieve more.

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Du Bois firmly advocated for economic rights, which he believed could be acquired through vocational education in various fields, such as teaching, nursing, and agriculture among others. He was, therefore, a supporter of the establishment of training institutions for black people. Despite the fact that he supported the idea of economic empowerment through education, he also thought that economic and political rights were inseparable. In his opinion, any improvements in the economic sector and gains as a result of such improvements could only be safeguarded if political rights of African-Americans were respected.

As a strong believer in political rights, he actively participated in the struggle for political equality as a way of securing economic rights of black people. He championed campaigns that agitated for the right to vote, especially among women. Consequently, he criticized the Atlanta Compromise signed by Washington since one of its requirements was that African-Americans could only gain access to education if they surrendered to the white leadership and served humbly without demanding their right to vote.

According to Du Bois, out of every ten black men, there was a high probability that one could become a leader of African-Americans. For example, it could happen when such a person had sufficient education. He referred to this ideology as the “talented tenth”. He opined that such people had to be given the opportunity to be leaders and ministers of tradition amidst their fellow citizens. He also criticized the Tuskegee Institute, which did not offer sufficient training for such leaders.

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During the period of reconstruction after the civil conflict, Du Bois presumed that there was a division between black and white workers. To him, this occurred as a result of the fail of reconstruction plans, which provided populists who were white, Black people, who were underprivileged and could not vote, did not have an opportunity to reacquire legislative powers.

Washington’s Relationship with the African-American Communities and Euro-Americans

Washington was well renowned and revered by black communities both in the North and South to an extent that he was widely viewed as their spokesperson. He was so prominent that he became the head of the Tuskegee institute to promote skilled training for black people. However, well-educated colored people from the North differed with his views, particularly on education. They felt that the black had to be given the same opportunity to study classical liberal arts just as the white.

Euro-Americans, on the other hand, fully supported his activities. President Woodrow Wilson, at times, consulted with his works to look for advice on various issues. Poor white workers in the South liked him because he fought against the oppression of the low class by the rich, while white liberal reformers thought that his restrained approach was the best way to deal with the racial issues facing the country during the reconstruction period. Booker T. was well connected with wealthy and philanthropic business persons, some of whom financed his political and educational development activities for the black. A classic example is Andrew Carnegie.

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Du Bois’ Relationship with African-Americans and Various Classes of Euro-Americans

Du Bios was a leading figure for the southern and northern African-American people who viewed him not only as a source of knowledge but also as a source of pride of their community. Since he was a strong agitator for the abolition of racial discrimination, he founded the Niagara Movement in 1905. This was later absorbed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in which he worked as a coordinator of promotional activities and research, affiliate of the administrators, and an editor of their monthly magazine called the Crisis. As a leader, he actively committed himself to ensuring that the plights of African-Americans were conveyed to the United Nations, owing to the fact that he was an advisor of this organization.

Similarities and Differences between Washington and Du Bois

Both Du Bois and Washington were respected leaders in the struggle against white supremacy in the post reconstruction era. Using different philosophies, they both agitated for the same course. For instance, they vehemently opposed the randomized lynching of poor black people from the North and South and racially instigated violence. While Washington encouraged African-Americans to undertake industrial education, he agreed with Du Bois in stating that liberal arts were more beneficial.

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Although both leaders opposed discrimination against people of color, they differed in various aspects. For example, while Du Bois felt that white and black populations had to be treated equally, Washington thought that equality was not important so long as the first could gain access to education that could empower them economically. Du Bois criticized the Atlanta agreement signed by Washington and participated in campaigns that advocated for the granting of civil rights to the black, especially the right to vote. More specifically, his participation in the Niagara Movement and the NAACP as well as his book The Souls of Black Folk, where he expounded the concept of double consciousness, were important to this campaign.

The two leaders also exhibited a great difference in terms of their views on education. While Washington believed it would equip student with technical skills, Du Bois was of the opinion that this was not sufficient. He argued that in addition to these skills, liberal education was also important since it would ensure that the student became well-educated.


From the abovementioned information, it can be concluded that although both leaders strongly opposed oppression, they differed in their philosophical approaches to various challenges facing black people. The major points of contention were outstanding, especially their views on education, economic, and political issues. Unlike Washington who believed that a controlled approach had to be taken in agitating for the above issues, Du Bois took a more aggressive stance on these problems. Their relationship with other stakeholders was also unsteady. Washington appeared to be more popular among workers, liberal thinkers, and business persons of white race, who supported his moderate approach. Du Bois, on the contrary, was supported by the black in the North and South of America.

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