"There are only two ways of telling the complete truth—anonymously and posthumously."Thomas Sowell

Monday, December 19, 2005

Booker T. and W.E.B.

I attended Booker T. Washington High School in Pensacola, Florida, so I've always paid attention to anything about the man that crossed my desk.

The popular/academic assessment has been that Booker T. was an Uncle Tom willing to settle for what the white man would tolerate, while his contemporary W.E.B. Dubois was a righteous civil rights warrior.

My friends over at the excellent blog Rock, Paper, Dynamite have a nice piece aiming at rehabilitating Booker T. and showing that Dubois and he weren't polar opposites.

Sometimes, we cook up roles for historical figures because we want to prove a particular point or tell a certain story. It looks as if Booker T. has been the victim of those who wanted to tarnish his halo, while polishing Dubois'.


Jay D. Homnick said...

They had Dubois motives.

Tom Van Dyke said...

The original Sowell (et al.) essay is good as far as it goes. But Washington's famous Atlanta Exposition speech intimated that Blacks should chill on political civil rights until they had built up economically. DuBois, the first Black Ph.D. in Harvard's history, was already where Washington wanted Black America to be, and so saw political rights as the logical and timely next step. Here was where the split between the two began.

Jay D. Homnick said...

Neat analysis, Tom.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Thanks, Jay. I've done some reading up on this pivotal moment in American history, and so will post more on it presently.

J-Deal said...

Thanks for the insight Tom, look forward to reading more.

the early civil rights era - from about Douglas to Washington to Du Bois - is really one of the most facinating eras in American history. Washington and Douglas rank near the top of my American hero's list.

The lesson to be learned during this time, not only on racial equality, but just on how society works, how life works... Well they really need to be taught more. I was lucky, my HS History teacher spent a good week on Douglas and Washington, really helped changed my life at a young age... If there is no stuggle, there is no progress.