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The struggle for equality within the black population struck fear into the eyes of the white master class. The idea of having to share political, social, and economic space with blacks did not fit the mold that whites had forced the slaves into during the years of the Trans Atlantic slave trade. When blacks began to enlist in the armed forces, whites became even more outraged. To take orders from a Negro general or sergeant was not humanly possible when viewed from the white perspective.
How on earth was society to cope with this rush of black freedom, liberation, and integration? Two well-known individuals set out to end the struggle between the two races and answer this burning question white society had swept beneath the rug of injustice and oppression. Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois are two of many who lead the struggle. In discussing their differences in background, education, and mechanisms of thought we will determine which of these two had the greatest affect on society and which mechanism of thought was most appropriate for the time period.
It is possible to argue that Booker T. Washington was for “the people” and of the people, since he was reared in West Virginia, a state that had yet to end slavery at that point in time. No stranger to enslavement, B.T. Washington had been through the struggle, and knew what it was to submit and obey. It is evident that he knew his place in society once his choice in further education is considered. Washington attended Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute. Even the naming of educational institutions bound Negroes to this lower status within white society. Perhaps these very experiences are what influenced his mechanism of thought.
Booker T. Washington’s approach to black equality and integration into society can be classified as somewhat passive. This passiveness of voice is employed in a sense that his background in slavery influenced his mechanism of thought. This sense of passiveness is evident in his employment of accommodation as a means by which the black population could ascend the ladder of equality. Washington’s belief that equality could be achieved through mutual or neutral conduct is somewhat radical. What with the race war hypothesis intruding upon the peripheral screen of every white in power, neutral ground between the two races seemed unattainable.
In 1895 Booker T. Washington’s radical views of equality lead him to present the Atlanta Exposition. This famous speech can be compared to that of Frederick Douglas. Douglas employs the use of words such as your and their in order to separate the two races. On the other hand, Washington uses words such as our and we in order to create a sense of unity between the black south and the white south. Although the two speeches are analogous, Washington’s speech includes some contradictory and controversial elements.
Let us take into consideration the following quote. “…Cast your buckets down where you are…” Here, Washington is not only addressing the black population, this statement is directed towards whites also. Washington is asking white society to give local jobs to people within the country (mainly blacks) instead of hiring European emigrants. However, the controversy arises when one ponders the message depicted for blacks. As a people, if blacks were to cast down their buckets where they stood, they would be embracing digression and sublimation. Furthermore, their despondent status within white society would be ignored.
The following statement demonstrates the contradictory elements present in the Atlanta Exposition. “We can be as separate as the five fingers…” This statement is in conflict with his proposal of a mutual progress within the gates of segregation. To some degree, segregation involves a difference in opinion and a definite difference in culture whereas mutual progress involves two parties working together towards a common goal. Unfortunately, this was not the case between the white and black south. The white south was not interested in black liberation and integration, they were focused only on what they would be loosing, cheap labor. The controversial and contradictory elements within the Atlanta Exposition are what left it so open for criticism by individuals such as