Booker T. Washington


Booker T. Washington : biography

April 5, 1856 – November 15, 1915

This stance was contrary to what well-educated blacks in the North wanted. Du Bois wanted blacks to have the same "classical" liberal arts education as upscale whites did, along with voting rights and civic equality. He believed that an elite he called the Talented Tenth would advance to lead the race to a wider variety of occupations. The source of division between Du Bois and Washington was generated by the differences in how African Americans were treated in the North versus the South. Many in the North felt that they were being ‘led’, and authoritatively spoken for, by a Southern accommodationist imposed on them primarily by Southern whites." Furthermore, historian Clarence E. Walker said, "Free black people were ‘matter out of place’. Their emancipation was an affront to southern white freedom. Booker T. Washington did not understand that his program was perceived as subversive of a natural order in which black people were to remain forever subordinate or unfree.". Both men sought to define the best means to improve the conditions of the post-Civil War African-American community through education.

Blacks were solidly Republican in this period. Southern states disfranchised most blacks and many poor whites from 1890–1908 through constitutional amendments and statutes that created barriers to voter registration, and voting such as poll taxes and literacy tests. Southern white Democrats regained power in the state legislatures of the former Confederacy and passed laws establishing racial segregation and other Jim Crow laws. More blacks continued to vote in border and Northern states.

Washington worked and socialized with many white politicians and industry leaders. Much of his expertise was his ability to persuade wealthy whites to donate money to black causes. He argued that the surest way for blacks to gain equal social rights was to demonstrate "industry, thrift, intelligence and property." This was the key to improved conditions for African Americans in the United States. Because they had only recently been emancipated, he believed they could not expect too much at once. Washington said, "I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed.

Along with Du Bois, he partly organized the "Negro exhibition" at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris, where photos, taken by his friend Frances Benjamin Johnston, of Hampton Institute’s black students were displayed. The exhibition expressed African Americans’ positive contributions to American society.

Washington privately contributed substantial funds for legal challenges to segregation and disfranchisement, such as the case of Giles v. Harris, which went before the United States Supreme Court in 1903.