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History of Education Society

TIe WasIinglon-BuIois Conlvovevs and Ils EJJecl on lIe Negvo FvoIIen


AulIov|s) C. Spencev Foxpe
Souvce Hislov oJ Educalion JouvnaI, VoI. 8, No. 4 |Sunnev, 1957), pp. 128-152
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THE WASHINGTON-DUBOIS CONTROVERSY AND ITS
EFFECT ON THE NEGRO PROBLEM*
C.
Spencer Poxpey
One of the most
pressing problems
in the United
States
today
is that of the
Negro;
and two of the
leading figures, ad-
mired
by
some and
maligned by others,
are Booker T.
Wash-
ington
and William E. B. DuBois.
This
problem,
with roots buried in the
early growth of
our
country
as a result of two and one-half centuries of
en-
forced
slavery,
has
always preyed upon
the conscience of
Americans,
in the South as well as the North.
Although slav-
ery
was
accepted
in both
sections,
it nevertheless
plagued
the
innermost
thinking
of
Americans,
because it did not
square
itself
with the basic tenets
underlying
the American creed.
Following
the Civil
War,
it became one of the foremost
problems.
The
fifty year period,
from 1865 until
1915,
mark-
ed an era in which the
pendulum swung
from one side to the
other,
with
progress slowly
but
perceptibly being
made. Even
among Negroes themselves,
it
was,
and still
is
today,
a mat-
er of not
inconsiderable difference as to the means of
bring-
ing
about
improvement,
if not the
solution.
One of the most relentless and bitter controversies on
these
aspects
occurred between 1895 and 1915 between Wash-
ington
and
DuBois,
two
opposites
in
every respect.
It is doubt-
ful
that even if
they
had
agreed they
could have worked har-
moniously together,
and it is about these two men and their
differences that this article is written.
There are certain limitations inherent in the
investiga-
tion of a
controversy involving
two
persons
who believed in
substantially
the same
goals, especially
when one is still liv-
ing,
and has had the
opportunity
to reassess his earlier
posi-
tion. Another limitation is that the
body
of material
dealing
with their differences is
personal
and therefore
subjective.
However,
an
attempt
will be made to check facts other than
those from the
protagonists
themselves. There is a third lim-
itation also. That is the fact that the views of
one,
accepted
now,
in the
opinion
of
many may
tend to discredit the
other.
*Reprinted in revised form from The
Bulletin, Minnesota Council
for
the Social
Studies,
Fall,
1957.
128
THE WASHINGTON-DUBOIS CONTROVERSY 129
Because of these
limitations,
the
scope
of this
article,
while
naturally touching
the
present,
will deal
mainly
with
the
two decades when both men faced each other in life. However
an
attempt
will be
made,
through
the
study
of other
sources, to
assess the
past
as well as the
present
evaluation of their ef-
forts in
regard
to the
cultural, economic,
and intellectual life
of those for whom
they
worked.
The nature of the
controversy
itself and the
depth
to
which it sank
may
well be told in a look at the two men them-
selves. No two
persons
were more unlike than
they,
in train-
ing, temperament
and in
rearing. Perhaps
their
only
common
factors were that
they
were
human, able,
and
members of the
same race.
Washington,
born a slave in
Virginia,
walked from
his
home at Haleford to
Hampton Institute,
established to train
Ne-
groes
in vocational
education,
and was
graduated
from
that
school. He so
impressed
the officials with his
industry and
punctuality that, upon graduation-a
feat of considerable mo-
ment for an ex-slave
boy
at that time-he was chosen to found
and direct a similar school in the black belt of Alabama. He
founded
Tuskegee
Institute in
1881,
four
years
after the Com-
promise
of
1877,
which saw the
Negro problem
left almost
entirely
to the South. He was not
yet twenty-four years
old.
By
nature he was
observant, kindly disposed,
and a
good
listener.
Although
an able orator and able to meet
people
well,
he seldom
expressed
himself until he knew to whom he was
talking
and what their
position
was on the matter
being
dis-
cussed.' Polite in
manners,
tactful in
approach
and
diploma-
tic in
discourse,
he was able to
get along
with the best or the
worst of both
races,
a
quality necessary
for the
times,
and
for that
matter, any
time.
Born a
slave,
spending
much of his
early
manhood dur-
ing
the
years
of one of the world's costliest wars and the
trag-
ic reconstruction
period, Washington
knew as well as
anyone
the southern scene. He
knew,
as DuBois could not
know,
the
antipathies
of the
leading
class and the lower whites who were
to take over and make worse the
Negro problem.
He knew
by
experience
the
problems
faced
by
the
Negroes,
the vast ma-
jority
of whom were
living
in a section where the stresses and
'W. E. B.
DuBois, Dusk of Dawn (New York:
Harcourt,
Brace &
Co.,
1940), 79.
130 HISTORY OF EDUCATION JOURNAL
strains were at the
breaking point.
He knew where the
points
of conciliation
were; indeed,
he was an
integral part
of
that
society.
He had first-hand
knowledge
of the
high illiteracy of
both the whites and the
Negroes,
which one author
places at
35%
and
77%
respectively.
2
DuBois'
background
and
training
were
just
the
opposite.
Born in Massachusetts of free
parents
in
1868,
trained at
a
high
school where there was no racial
discrimination,
the eru-
dite and
scholarly youngster
attended Fisk
University, Nash-
ville, Tennessee,
and later Harvard
University,
where he
re-
ceived his doctor's
degree
in
history,
the first of his race to
do so. His firsthand
knowledge
of the
problem
came in
1885
when it was decided that he should attend Fisk. Of this he
said,
"I
was
going
into the
South;
the South of
slavery,
rebell-
ion,
and
blackfolks;
and above all I was
going
to meet colored
people
of
my
own
age
and
education,
and of
my
own ambi-
tion."
'
Thus
trained,
at two universities whose courses of
study
at that time and to an extent
now,
leaned
heavily
toward the
arts and
sciences,
coupled
with a
background
of
living
in a
community
which had no
legal discriminatory practices,
it is
obvious that DuBois would
approach
the
problem
of the
Negro
differently. However,
he
recognized
that not all
Negroes
should be trained in the vocations.
Unlike
Washington,
DuBois was and is
blunt,
to the
point
and
outspoken.
Never
lacking
in
ability
to
express himself,
and fearless almost to the
point
of
being foolhardy,
he was not
the
type
to move with ease
among
those whom he considered
below him. Thus he was not able to
speak
"The
Language"
of the
southerners,
white or
Negro.
Of himself he has this to
say concerning
an interview with
Washngton,
one of the few
as far as we could find out
they every
had: "I was
quick,
fast
talking
and voluble
[and]
...
found at the
end...
I had done
all the
talking."4
That both men were able and
brilliant,
no one can
deny;
that both wanted to
improve
the lot of the four million Ne-
groes, just
out of
slavery
and who were ushered into a
society
'
Harvey Wish, Society
and
Thought
in
Modern America
(New York:
Longmans,
Green and
Co., 1952),
34.
DuBois,
Dusk
of Dawn,
p.
22.
'Ibid.,
p.
80.
THE WASHINGTON-DUBOIS CONTROVERSY 131
where their critics were
many
and
helpers
few,
is
unquestioned;
and that each one in his own
way
contributed much to what
DuBois now terms the "Dusk of Dawn" and biracial
uplift
is
unchallenged.
Their difference lies
in their
approach
to the ultimate
and best means of
educating
the
Negro
on terms of
ability
and
competence
which would make him
accepted
in America as a
citizen.
Apparently
there was no serious difference between
the two men until after the turn of the
century, when, in
DuBois' words,
Tuskegee
had become "The
Negro capital
of
the United States."5
It
is
well at this
point
to
put
the basis of this contro-
versy
into
proper perspective.
Our
country
had
just emerged
from a bitter and
long
war-a war which saw kin
fighting
against
kin and in which the end
result,
no matter what the
outcome,
was to leave scars which would take a
long
time to
heal. The causes of this war need not concern us
here,
ex-
cept
to mention that the South believed most
strongly
in the
justice
of its cause. Because the South was the loser and be-
cause of this
belief-mainly
that it had the
right
to withdraw
and
govern
itself as it chose-the
enormity
of the
problem
of
the South's restoration and
adjustment
to the
newly
freed Ne-
gro
was increased. Whatever the results of the
war,
the
un-
biased
judgment
of
history prior
to 1860 must hold with the
South
,
as John
C. Calhoun and others
held,
that it could se-
cede. But it is another
story
after
Appomatox-a story
which
many southerners
even
today
do not want to believe is true.
Generally
there were three classes of
people
in the South after
the
war,
two white classes and the
Negro.
The
landholding
class and the
Negroes
tended to work
harmoniously
with each
other. For our
purposes
we shall refer to the landholders
generally
as the
Gentry.
The other
class,
whose hatred of the
Negro
was of
long duration,
even
during
the
days
of
slavery,
was the
poorer group.
Few had ever had
slaves;
most owned
little
property
and had had even less to do with the actual
pol-
itical
affairs of the South. This class we will call the Bour-
bons.
They
were to come to
power
in the late 1890's and it is
they
with whom the four million freedmen were to deal. There
SDuBois,
Dusk
of Dawn, p.
86.
132 HISTORY OF EDUCATION JOURNAL
was a close
relationship
between the
Gentry
and the
Negroes,
while the Bourbons hated
both.s
This
emnity
increased after 1863 when President
Abra-
ham Lincoln issued the
Emancipation
Proclamation
ordering
the slaves
in
those states still
fighting
freed. For this
class
saw
in
the
Negro
an economic
competitor
and a
political ally
of the
Gentry,
which
might
indeed be the crux of the
problem
today. Moreover, it furnished, if
the
Gentry
and the
Negroes
would combine their
vote,
the continued domination
by
those
whom
Washington
called "'The better white
people".
As a
matter of
fact,
this hastened the inevitable defeat of the South
after
Gettysburg,
for the bulk of the
poor
whites saw little to
be
gained
in
continuing
the
fight.
The end of the war
brought
four or five
results,
which
will be mentioned here
only
because
they helped
to
illuminate
the
background
of the
controversy. Firstly,
it established
more
firmly
the
authority
of the national
government,
and laid
to rest the doctrine of
legal secession,
although
sections of
the South are
today using
all their
powers
to raise it from its
grave. Secondly,
it vetoed the Jeffersonian
concept
of an eco-
nomy
based on
agriculture
and small cities and
accepted
the
Hamiltonian
concept
of
industrialism based on free labor and
a bountiful
government. Thirdly,
it freed the
Negro slaves,
and
finally
established the basis of
making
our
government
"one nation
indivisible,
with
liberty
and
justice
for all."
The
plans
of reconstruction need not concern us in
any
detail here. The Lincoln
"go-in-peace-and-sin-no-more"
plan
was most
lenient,
but his death cut short his efforts be-
fore the real
problem
came. It is indeed doubtful whether
they
could have been carried out had he lived. President Andrew
Johnson's
plan,
at first
tougher, was
nullified under the Con-
gressional
dictatorship
of the
radicals,
led
by
Senator Charles
Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens.
Briefly,
three of Johnson's
proposals
must be
mentioned,
for it is in the execution of these
plans
that the
problem really
began.
It
provided
that the states must hold constitutional
conventions,
accept
the Thirteenth and later the Fourteenth
and Fifteenth
amendments,
repudiate
all debts made under the
Confederacy
and elect such officers as had been
pardoned by
Congress.
When the South
rebelled,
stronger
measures were
used. The
setting up
of
military
districts and the
appointing
'C. Vann
Woodward, Origins of
the New South
(Baton
Rouge:
Lou-
isiana State
University Press, 1951),
210.
THE WASHINGTON-DUBOIS CONTROVERSY 133
of
governors, although necessary
at the
time,
proved
to be
most
disunifying.
Force is never a
good
determinant in the
long
run.
While the southerners
generally accepted
the terms as the
quid pro quo
for
getting
back into the
union,
it was done main-
ly
in words but not in
spirit.
The
carpetbag
rule in the
South,
of which much has been
and will continue to be written as time
passes,
left
many deep
scars on the South and on the nation. It came at a time when
America was
experiencing growing pains,
when the full
weight
of the industrial revolution was
bearing heavily
on the old in-
stitutions,
and when moral
depravity
was at
its
height, politi-
cally
and
economically.
To the victor
go
the
spoils,
and
many unprincipled per-
sons,
northern and
southern,
Negro
and
White,
used this
per-
iod as a means of
lining
their
pockets
with whatever was in
sight.
This was the eve of the era of
"rugged
individualism"
or "Darwinian
Socialism."
Competition
was rife in both sec-
tions of the
nation.
A
good
case in
point
is that of a
military
governor
in Louisiana who came South all but
penniless,
and
after four
years
in office was a millionaire.8 These
governors
and their coherts used the
freedmen,
uneducated and
without
training
and
wholly unprepared,
as
office
holders,
a move
which was to contribute
greatly
toward the
disfranchisement
policies
of the Bourbons. The radicals were
"enforcing"
civil
rights,
much to the detriment of both the
Negro and
the
white.
The
disputed Hayes-Tilden
election of
1876,
in which
the North
began
its
nearly seventy-year
"retirement" from
the
Negro problem provides
the basic
prop
in the
setting
of
this
controversy.
The
Compromise
of
1877,
four
years
before
Washington
was to establish
Tuskegee
Institute,
was made at
the
Wormley's
Hotel,
on a
strictly partisan
vote of
8-7,
de-
cided not to
go
behind the
disputed
election returns but to ac-
cept
as valid the
reports
of the
Republican Canvassing
Boards
in the three states in
question.
With the
presidency upper-
most in their
minds,
the leaders of the
Republican Party,
among
whom were Senator John Sherman of Ohio and Con-
gressman
James
Garfield, President-to-be,
made an
agree-
ment with leaders of the Democratic
Party which,
in
effect,
abandoned the
Negro
as a national
problem
and left him to the
eClaude
Bowers,
The
Tragic
Era
(New
York:
Literary
Guild of
America, 1929),
363.
134 HISTORY OF EDUCATION JOURNAL
tender mercies of what at that time was a Southern leader-
ship
not adverse to
allowing
the
Negroes
to
keep
his basic
political
and civil
rights.
The
Wormley's
Hotel
agreement,
later formalized
in
the office of the
U.S.
Attorney General,
and
approved by
Pres-
ident
Grant, stipulated
that the
South,
in
exchange
for the with-
drawal of Federal
troops,
the
withholding
of national
support
from the
Republican regimes
and the
leaving
of the
Negro
to
the
South,
would use its influence to continue the count of the
Election Commission
(which
assured the
Republicans
the oc-
cupancy
of the White
House),
would
respect
the civil
rights
of
all
citizens, including
the
freedmen,
and would refrain from
the use of violence.9
Meanwhile,
when President Rutherford B.
Hayes began
to
carry
out the measures of the
compromise,
which
gave
him
the
presidency,
there
developed
a serious
struggle
for
politi-
cal
power
in the South. The
Gentry,
who had consummated the
compromise
and who were
expected by
the
Republicans
to live
up
to their end in
regard
to the
Negro,
had the
edge,
and were
well satisfied that
they
could live
up
to the
agreement.
Paul
Buck states: "The
Compromise
of 1877
pleased
those north-
erners who still dreaded the
prospects
of a national Demo-
cratic administration
by
placing
Hayes
in the White House to
purify
the
Republican party.
[It]
implied
a surrender to those
who had insisted
upon
a
thorough
establishment of nationalism
and
complete equality
as a result of the war."
10
However,
when the South was restored and the Union
army
left the
scene,
there was a determined
spirit-an
un-
yielding
obsession-to blame all of the ills of the area on the
Negro.
While
they
went
through
the motions of
according
him
his
"place"
on
paper,
the
hostility
of the masses was most
intense. Cash observes that "The Yankee was to retire from
this
thirty year
conflict in what amounted to
abject defeat....
It was still a world in which the
principle
of the Old was
pre-
served
virtually intact;
a world in which the
Negro
was
still,
'mud-sill' and in which the white
man,
any
white
man,
was in
some sense a master.""
'Paul
Hayworth,
The
Hayes-
Tilden
Disputed
Election
(Indianapolis:
Bobbs-Merrill &
Co., 1906),
285-286.
1'Paul Buck,
Back to Reunion
(Boston: Little,
Brown &
Co., 1937),
100-101.
"W. J. Cash, The Mind of the South (New York: Doubleday & Co.,
1941),
117.
THE WASHINGTON-DUBOIS CONTROVERSY 135
The economic conditions in the South were such that all
three classes were at odds. The
only things they
had in
com-
mon were
poverty
and
depravity.
Reconstruction measures
had
reduced the land of the
Gentry
who
became,
in
fact,
a
land-
holding
class without
capital.
The other class of whites, worse
off because
they
had no direct entre for
getting
loans from
the
North,
and who were the eternal
enemy
of the
Negro, had
neither the
money
nor the
political power
at the time to
fight
the
Gentry.
But
they
did have more land
they they
had
before
the war. Thus the
Negroes, always
close to the
Gentry,
allied
themselves with that class who tended to
exploit
him and
the
poor
whites.
This
exploitation
was to have a
telling
effect on the
Ne-
gro
and on the
enmity
which
developed
between the
Gentry
and
the Bourbons. Cash states: "The common whites were de-
prived
of their former liberties
and,
in
large numbers,
brought
within the
scope
of direct
exploitation... They (the Gentry)
came to use white tenants
only through
the
operation
of race
loyalty
and old
paternalism."
12
One of the
strangest
facets of this
study
and one which
is
equally baffling today,
is
why
both the
Negro
and the
poor
whites,
suffering generally
at the hands of the wealthier
class,
who used both
groups
to
keep itself
in
power
and
pitted
one
against
the other to such an extent that hatred
multiplied,
could
not then and cannot now find common and mutual
ground
for
their own
betterment.
Perhaps
it is well to take a closer look
at the
Negro
and the
poor
whites of that
period,
for
it is their
animosities,
fed and nurtured
by poverty
and
ignorance
on the
part
of
both,
a fact which
Washington
seems to
appreciate
and
understand far better than
DuBois,
which led to the schism.
The South had a
few, if any, public
schools for the
gen-
eral use of
Negroes
or
poor whites.
The
Gentry
believed
in
light
taxation and
private
education for their children. As a
result,
both the
Negro
and the
poor
white were
very nearly
illiterate,
and thus were easier to
exploit. Therefore, it was
easier to fan the fires of race hate and
intolerance between
them. Whatever one
may say
about the
carpetbag
rule in the
South,
one must admit that it did
give
direction to the estab-
lishment of
public
schools
for
Negroes
and whites.
Apologists
lbid., pp. 172-173. It must be
pointed out that Cash
himself,
a
southerner from South
Carolina,
was of this
poorer class,
and
may
indeed be
a bit biased.
136 HISTORY OF EDUCATION JOURNAL
for the South do not
always
want to admit this fact, but,
for
example,
Florida's
public
school
system
was
begun
in
1874
under
carpetbag rule,
with Jonathan
Gibbs, a man of
color,
serving
as state
superintendent.
Buck observes that "It
seems
beyond
a doubt that in
including
the
principle
of the
common
school
safely
in the state
constitutions,
the
carpetbag govern-
ments established a
principle
which
henceforth
remained
un-
assailable." 13
The
period
from 1880 to
1890,
when the
Gentry
lost
po-
litical control of the
South,
was one of utmost
significance, if
for no other reason than the fact that the real
leaders,
the
better class of
whites,
really
made an effort to make the
South
in fact a
part
of the nation. Led
by
such men as Wade
Hamp-
ton,
George Washington Cable,
Sidney Lanier,
Woodrow Wil-
son,
Joel Chandler
Harris,
Henry Grady, Henry Q.C.Lamar,
Alexander
Stephens,
Tom Watson and others in each
state,
many gains
were
made toward
easing
the tensions. It was dur-
ing
this
period
that
Negro
education received
its
greatest
im-
petus
from the South as well as the North. It
appeared
as if
the
Negro
was indeed to be
accepted.
Now this class with whom
Washngton,
not
DuBois,
was
in closest
contact,
was moderate in its
approach
to the
pro-
blem. It did not
propose
to
accept
the
Negro
as an
equal,
but
it did insist that he be
given
an
opportunity
to
prove
himself
as a citizen. It insisted
upon
fair treatment at the
polls
and
in
general
intercourse between the races. These were the better
educated
leaders,
who felt that in time the
Negro
would
prove
himself as a citizen. Wade
Hampton,
in
1885,
expressed
the
general
view of this
group, which,
it must be
admitted,
was
fast
losing
its
influence as a
political
and economic factor
in
the South. "The
Negro belongs
to a subordinate
role,
but he
need not be
ostracized. He is
inferior,
but that does not fol-
low that he should be
segregated
or
publicly humiliated. Ne-
gro degradation
is not a
necessary corollary
of white
supre-
macy."
14
This was
paternalistic,
and there was no
way possible
for DuBois to
accept
such a
statement of that
sort,
even
if it
were made
during
a
political
campaign.
Nevertheless,
the Ne-
gro
became the focal
point
in the
political battle
throughout
the
"SBuck, op. cit., pp.
163-164.
"Quoted
in
C.
Vann
Woodward,
The
Strange
Case
of Jim-Crow
(New
York: Oxford
University Press, 1955),
30-31.
THE WASHINGTON-DUBOIS
CONTROVERSY 137
South,
with the
Bourbons, using
intimidation and even
resort-
ing
to overt acts of
violence, greatly disapproved by
the
Gen-
try,
who were
powerless
to
stop
them. The Ku Klux Klan,
or-
ganized
in 1867 at
Pulaski, Tennessee, became so violent
that
General Nathan Bedford
Forrest,
its first national head,
re-
signed
and ordered it dissolved. It did
disappear
for a
while,
but was revived on a local level
by
the Bourbon
demagogues,
who saw in the
disfranchisement of the
Negro
their ascent
to
power
and the double elimination of the twin
objects
of
their
venom at the
time,
the aristocratic
Gentry
and the
Negro.
The
Gentry
had had their
day
and were overthrown
by
this
poorer,
less educated class which was to isolate the
South
from the rest of the nation for
nearly fifty years.
From
this
class came
Benjamin
"Pitchfork Ben"
Tillman of South
Caro-
lina,
who walked out of the Democratic National Convention
in
1936 when a
Negro
offered
prayer;
Hoke Smith of
Georgia,
who
opened
the
way
for the
Talmadges,
father and
son;
W.
K.
Vardaman of
Mississippi,
whose
place
was taken
by
Theodore
Gilmore
Bilbo;
and now James
Eastlund.
There is
comfort,
however,
in the fact that
although
still
potent,
this
group
is
small and fast
disappearing.
During
the first
decade of
power,
from 1890 to
1900,
1,111
Negroes
were
lynched
in the South.15
By legal
and
ex-
tra-legal methods,
the Boubons had all but nullified whatever
gains
had been made
by
the
Negro
since
Appomattox.
It was
during
the middle of this decade that
Washington
made his now
famous
"Atlanta
Compromise" address,
which was to
provide
the fuel for.the
Washington-DuBois
controversy.
The
Bourbons were in the
saddle,
but the
gentry
were
not
yet
through.
Largely through
the efforts of
Grady,
who had
gone
north to
preach
the
gospel
of
nationalism,
a new South
sought
full
partnership
in the nation as an
equal.
In an
impas-
sioned
speech
at
Boston,
he
pleaded
for financial aid in terms
of
investments in a section which had an
abundance of labor
and all the land and
resources
necessary
to be
fully
a
part
of
the
growing industrialism which
was
enveloping
the
North.
He did much to
convince the North that the South was indeed
willing
and
ready
to
embrace this new
industrial
movement,
and
invited
investors to come to
Atlanta to the
exposition,
to
iSCash, op. cit., p.
301.
138 HISTORY OF EDUCATION
JOURNAL
be held in 1895. His
untimely
death was a blow to the
nation
and the South.
especially
to the moderate whites and the
Ne-
gro.
The Atlanta
Exposition,
at which President
Grover
Cleveland was to make the
principal
address, was to be
the
biggest
event in the New South. And in order to offset the
onus
of the tirades made
against
the betterment of racial
goodwill,
as well as to have the
top spokesman
for the cause of the
Ne-
gro
have a
part,
Governor Bullock of
Georgia
invited
Wash-
ington
to
speak.
The move was
kept
secret until the last
pos-
sible
moment,
lest the Bourbons
try
to
stop it,
as he was
not
sure what the reaction would be to a
Negro addressing
a white
audience.
Washington
was
barely thirty-six years
old when he
was
nervously
introduced
by
Governor Bullock as a true
repre-
sentative of
"Negro enterprise
and
Negro
civilization." It
is
reliably reported
that the Governor
paced
the floor where he
and
Washington
waited in the anteroom next to the
platform.
No mention was made of what
Washington
was to
say,
but there
was some
apprehension
as to how his
message
would be re-
ceived
by
both
Negroes
and the whites.
The
excerpts
from
Washington's address,
which will be
quoted
in broken
parts
so as to
give
a closer
picture
of his
position
in this
controversy,
are taken from the full text as
found in his
monumental
book,
Up
From
Slavery.
Looking
at the
position
made
by
the Bourbons that the
Negro
was a drain on the
South,
he said: "One-third of the
population
is of the
Negro
race. No
enterprise seeking
the
material,
civil or moral welfare of this section can
disregard
this element of our
population
and reach the
highest
success.
If the South
goes,
it must
carry
the
Negro
with
it;
if it
falls,
it must fall with the
Negro."
He chided those
Negroes
and whites who had
given
the
Negro positions
of
rulership
in the
government
whenthe
Negro
was
hardly
able to read.
"Ignorant
and
inexperienced,
is it not
strange
that in the first few
years
of our new life we
began
at
the
top
instead of the
bottom;
that a seat in
Congress
or the
state
legislature
was more
sought
than real estate and indus-
trial
skill;
that the
political
convention of
stump speaking
had
more attraction than
starting
a
dairy
farm or a truck farm."
This section of
Washington's
speech
was
interpreted by
the Bourbons and
by many Negroes, including DuBois, to mean
THE WASHINGTON-DUBOIS CONTROVERSY 139
that he was
taking
the
Negro
out of
politics
and had
accepted
the disenfranchisement of the
Negro
at this time.
DuBois,
while not
going
so far as to
say Washington
had
accepted this
stand,
does accuse him of
soft-pedaling
the
political rights
and
aspirations
of
Negroes.
16
At the time of
Washington's speech,
there was a
move
on
foot,
supported by many well-thinking
whites and
Negroes,
that the best
thing
for the
Negro
was
deportation.
DuBois
was
not
among
this
group.
This move had and had had earlier
some
support
in
congressional
circles.
Indeed,
Lincoln and
Johnson
both
seriously
discussed this
possible move;
the former
even
had sent some
Negroes
to
Haiti,
while the latter asked for a
report
as to the cost of
transporting
millions there.
17
This
move reached
great proportions
under the
leadership
of Mar-
cus
Garvey
at the turn of the
century,
when his "Back to Afri-
ca Movement" resulted in
many Negroes going
back
"Home". 18
However,
through
the efforts of
Washington
and
DuBois and
others,
it was
stopped
cold and did not arise
again
until
immediately
after World War
I,
when Ku Klux Klanism
became
rampant.
To this
group, Washington
said: "To those of
my
race
who
depend upon bettering
their conditions in
foreign lands,
or
underestimate the
importance
of
cultivating
favorable rela-
tions with the Southern white
man... I
would
say
'Cast down
your
bucket' where
you
are-cast it down in
making
friends in
every manly way
of the
peoples
of all races
by
whom
you
are
surrounded. Cast it down in
agriculture, mechanics,
in com-
merce,
in domestic service and in the
professions."
This
phase
of the
speech
was to
bring
content to the
Bourbons,
who left out his reference to the
professions
and
interpreted
it to mean that the
Negro
was to have
only
those
jobs
at the
bottom.
It is this
phase, also,
which DuBois attack-
ed with
unremitting
vehemence in his
program
of "The Tal-
ented
Tenth",
about which we will have more to
say
later.
Recognizing,
but
lightly touching,
the evils
being perpe-
trated in the South
against
the
Negro,
and
recognizing
the slow
1"W.
E. B.
DuBois,
The Souls
of
the Black Folk
(Chicago:
A.
C.
McLung
&
Co., 1903),
53.
1tW.
E. B.
Dubois, Black Reconstruction
(New
York:
Harcourt,
Brace, 1937), 267.
18Roi
Ottley,
New
World A-Comin' (Boston:
Little, Brown, 1943),
66-72.
140 HISTORY OF EDUCATION JOURNAL
progress being
accorded him in the North at that
time, es-
pecially
in the
newly forming
labor
movement, Washington
joined
the industrial leaders of both sections in their
oppos-
tion to the labor movement and asked the
Negro,
"to bear
in
mind that whatever sins the South
may
be called
upon
to
bear,
when it comes to
business, pure
and
simple,
it is in the
South
that the
Negro
is
given
a man's chance in the commercial
world."
The labor unions had not
generally accepted Negroes
then,
partly
because the American Federation of Labor was
a union of craft unions and there were few skilled
Negro
work-
ers,
and
partly
because of racial discrimination. The
big
in-
dustrialists in the North then
(and many
in the South
now) op-
posed
the labor movement.
Washington urged
these leaders
to use
Negro
laborers. His severest critics attack this
posi-
tion,
holding
that he did not
fully comprehend
the
implications
of the
part
labor as a mass movement was to
play
in indus-
trialism,
which was
turning away
from
rugged
individual-
ism.9
It
is said,
not without some
foundation,
that he
approv-
ed the use of
Negroes
as strikebreakers.
Washington
closed his address
by touching
on the
ques-
tion which was to make his utterance a
subject
of
great
debate
in the
future,
but which at that time was a
soothing
balm to
those concerned with social
equality.
"In all
things
that are
purely social,
we
(the Negroes)
can be as
separate
as the fin-
gers, yet
as one hand in all
things
essential to mutual
pro-
gress.
..
.The
opportunity
to earn a dollar
just
now is
infinitely
worth more than the
opportunity
to
spend
it at an
opera
house."20
The
Washington Compromise, honorably
and
seriously
made,
was hailed in the North and in the South
by
leaders of
all shades of
opinion.
The North saw in it a workable solution
to what was a vexatious
problem
which would lead to the
quicker
development
of the nation and to the fulfillment of
that
dream,
not
yet
realized but well on its
way,
of a nation
"indivisible." This was indeed a New
South,
and now the in-
1'John
H.
Franklin,
From
Slavery
to Freedom
(New York: Alfred
A.
Knopf, Inc., 1947),
389.
20Booker T.
Washington,
Up from Slavery (Garden
City,
New
York,
1900).
The
speech
is
quoted
in this book. It is not
given
in full in this arti-
cle.
THE WASHINGTON-DUBOIS CONTROVERSY 141
dustrialists could
go
full
speed
ahead with their program, un-
hindered
by
the threat of racial strife.
The
Gentry
read in
Washington's speech a
program
which would
bring
the South
fully
back into the nation, back
to
economic
solvency
and back to
political importance,
with
the
Negro playing
a not inconsiderable role.
Indeed,
the
continued
enfranchisement of the
Negro
was of inestimable
importance
if the
Gentry
were to
keep
their
position--a
position
which
they
were fast
losing,
if
they
had not
already
lost
it.
The
Negroes generally,
DuBois
included,
saw in
the
Compromise
a
ray
of
hope
it if were heeded.
DuBois,
at
the
time a
sociology professor
at Atlanta
University,
observed
that "Here
might
be the basis of a real settlement between
the
white and the blacks in the
South,
if the South
opened
to
the
Negro
the doors of economic
opportunity
and the
Negroes
of
the South
cooperated
with the South
in political sympathy.,"2
The Bourbons looked at it
differently. They
saw in
the
speech
a
possible wedge
to break the hold of the
Gentry
through
the
complete disfranchisement
of the
Negro.
Bol-
stered
by
the
Plessey
vs.
Ferguson Decision,
in which the
United States
Supreme
Court enunciated the famous
"separate
but
equal"
doctrine in
1896,
they
made short work of
any
attempt
to insure civil
rights
for the
Negroes.
The
position
of the Bourbons was further
strengthened
by
the
Supreme
Court two
years
later in the Williams vs.
Mississippi Case,
in which the
Mississippi plan
for the use of
the
"white
primary"
was validated
(not
to be
reversed until
the Gaines vs. Texas Case of
1942). Although
the
plan
was
worked out in
Mississippi,
it
was
under Tillman that South
Carolina was
actually
the
first to use the
plan in 1896,
one
year
after the "Atlanta
Compromise." By
1915 it was
in
use
in eleven other states.
However,
Washington's
address was well
received;
it
made him indeed the
spokesman
for the
Negro
and the New
South on racial
matters;
and it is at this
point
that the
envy
of
DuBois was
kindled.
The
speech
also kindled the
enmity
of
many whites,
especially
the
Bourbons,
who did not look
kindly
on the fact that here was a
Negro
who was to advise with the
presidents
and with
leading
industrialists on
problems
of the
South,
21
uBois, Dusk
of Dawn,
p.
55.
142 HISTORY OF EDUCATION
JOURNAL
It is worth
noting
some of the observations of the
nation-
al
press
in
regard
to this address at that time. The
Atlanta
Constitution the next
day
hailed it "a
platform upon which
blacks and whites can stand with full
justice
to each other."
22
The New York World
editorially
commented that "a
Negro
Moses stood before a
great
audience of white
people
and
de-
livered an address that marks a new
epoch
in the
history
of
the New
South."23
The Boston
Transcript
declared that
the
address "seemed to have dwarfed all other
procedings.
.
.the
sensation it has created in the
press,
North and South has
nev-
er been
equalled.''24
Let us now turn to the
position
advanced
by DuBois.
First of
all,
he was and is one of the most
scholarly
men
in
America. He has had two or three
careers,
and has had
the
opportunity
to revise and
reappraise
his
position in
the
light
of
present
conditions. But we are concerned
primarily
here
with his
theory
of the Talented
Tenth, postulated in
1898. This
theory
later led to the
Niagara
Movement of
1905,
which form-
ed the basis for the
organization
of the National Association
for the Advancement of Colored
People
in
1909,
and culmin-
ated in the
publication
of The
Crisis,
the
organ
of that
organi-
zation,
in
1910.
DuBois a social
scientist,
held that there are in all
races individuals who have
exceptional abilities,
and that the
real and
only
differences between races are due
mainly
to en-
vironment and
opportunity.
From these
exceptional persons,
who should be trained in the arts and
sciences,
should come
the leaders of the
Negro
race. "I believed
in
the
higher
edu-
cation of a Talented
Tenth,
who
through
their
knowledge
of
modern culture could
guide
the American
Negro into
higher
civilization.. .a
leadership
which could be trusted to
bring
this
group
into
self-realization and to the
highest
cultural
possibil-
ities."25
DuBois feared and did not trust the white man to do
this,
and held that the
Negro
should be trained at all levels and in
whatever lines his
capacity
would
follow. He held
that,
in or-
der to do
this, special
colleges
and
universities,
staffed
by
22The Atlanta
Constitution,
September 18,
1895.
The New York
World, September 18,
1895.
24The
Boston
Transcript, September
20, 1895.
asDuBois,
The Dusk
of Dawn, p.
70.
THE WASHINGTON-DUBOIS CONTROVERSY 143
college-trained Negroes,
should be set
up
to
instruct
this Tal-
ented Tenth. As a
starting point,
he insisted "The
Negro
in
conscience
[feel]
bound to ask three
things
[now]:
First,
the
right
to
vote; second,
civic
equality
and third,
the education of
youth according
to
ability."t26
It will be noted that both
Washington,
while he did not
share DuBois' mistrust of the better
whites,
and DuBois made
no mention of social
equality
at that
time.
Both
implied
in
their
positions
that such was a
personal matter,
and their
main difference was in
approach
rather than ends. Neither one
opposed
the basic educational views of the
other,
for
Washing-
ton,
who sent his
daughter
to
college,
asked in the Atlanta
Compromise
that
Negroes
enter the
"professions".
DuBois
wanted
only
those of
exceptional
talent to enter
college.
Nei-
ther
expected
full
acceptance
of the
Negro
to come
immedi-
ately.
At this
point,
it
would seem to an
impartial observer,
looking
over the record after
nearly fifty years,
that one must
look elsewhere for the real reasons for the
controversy.
In-
deed,
the masses of
Negroes,
with a
background
of little or no
formal
training,
did need to start at the
bottom,
as
Washing-
ton
believed;
but that did not
imply
that
they
should have to
remain
there.
Certainly
there were
some, though
not
many
at
that
time,
who should have been trained
in
the
higher
branches
of
knowledge;
but
it
did not follow that leaders
necessarily
have to come from such a class. There were
many
outstand-
ing
leaders who came
up
from the ranks without
attending
col-
lege. Among
these was
Washington.
In
developing
his
theory
of the Talented
Tenth,
DuBois
delivered a series of
lectures,
one of which was
published
as:
"Of Mr.
Washington
and
Others."
In it he accused
Washington
personally. Recognizing
the serious
problems
of the South and
and much that was
good
in the Atlanta
Compromise,
he ob-
jected
to "indiscriminate
flattery"
and to what he
implied
was
a
"continually belittling
and
ridiculing
themselves." The
way
to
gain
their
just rights,
said DuBois "is not be
voluntarily
throwing
them
away
and
insisting
that
they
do not want them."
Instead
Negroes
must demand them
constantly.
Mr.
Washing-
ton's
propaganda,"
he
said,
left the
impression: "First,
that
the South is
justified
in its
present
attitude toward the
Negro
26DuBois,
The
Souls of Black Folk, p.
53.
144 HISTORY OF EDUCATION JOURNAL
because of the
Negroes' degradation; secondly,
that the
prime
cause of the
Negro's
failure to rise more
quickly
is his
wrong
education in the
past;
and
thirdly,
that his future
depends pri-
marily
on his own efforts." Such
ideas,
declared
DuBois,
were
"dangerous
half-truth[s]."27
Except
for the
personal
attack on
Washington,
the tenets
of DuBois'
position
were not to be
seriously disputed.
It must
be admitted that DuBois had set a clear road.
However,
he
was
hardly justified
in his
charges
that
Washington
had taken
the
Negro
out of
politics
or that he was
belittling
and
ridiculing
the
Negro.
There were factors
fomenting
in the
South,
winked
at,
if not condoned
by
the
North,
which were to drive
Washington
further to the
right
and DuBois to the left. These were the
clash between the Bourbons and the
Gentry
over
political
con-
trol of the South and the
philanthropic
zeal of the North and the
South in
regard
to
educating
the
Negro.
The
Gentry bitterly opposed
the
Mississippi
Plan,
al-
ready
touched
upon.
It was a
losing battle,
but
they
even made
public
statements
against
it. At the Louisana State
Conven-
tion in
1898, Washington
entered the
political
area
publicly
for
the first time and
urged
that
body
not to
accept
the "white
primary."
He
said,
"The
Negro
does not
object
to an educa-
tional or
property
test;
only
let the test fall
equally
on black
and white."
Washington
entered the
Georgia
Convention the
following
year,
when Tom
Watson,
the
great
southern
Populist
leader,
made a final
plea
for
Negro suffrage
before Hoke Smith took
over. While it
appears
that
Washington
was not enthusiastic
about
populism,
he wrote
many
letters to
leading figures
in
the
State, Negro
and
white, asking
them to defeat the Missis-
sippi
Plan. His lack of
response
from the
Negroes
caused him
to comment in a
private
letter to one of his friends that "I am
disappointed
with the Coloured
people
of
Georgia.
I have been
corresponding
with the leaders but cannot stir
up
a
single
col-
oured man to take the lead in
trying
to head off this
plan."29
DuBois was in
Georgia
at this
time;
he was
certainly
a leader.
Although
it cannot be determined whether or not
Washington
27Ibid., pp.
54-55.
C.
Vann
Woodward, Origins of
the New
South,
337.
29Ibid., p.
343.
THE WASHINGTON-DUBOIS CONTROVERSY
145
wrote
him,
DuBois does not mention such a letter. He
does
say, however,
that
Washington
did do a "little"
something
about the situation in Louisiana and
Georgia,
which, it would
seem,
would make him
hardly guilty
of
"voluntarily" taking
the
Negro
out of
politics. Although
these were the last
public
utterances
Washington
made on the
political
situation,
it
is
well to note that he made no
public
blast at the failure of
the
Negro
leaders of
Georgia
to
assist in
stopping,
if
possible,
the
Mississippi
Plan. He was the kind of leader who was
most
effective in
working
behind closed doors.
The efforts of the Bourbons was so
complete
and relent-
less that
Washington
took the
position
that the less said the
better. The Bourbons were
taking advantage
of
any
and
all
utterances and statements made
by Negroes
and moderate
whites and
using
them for all
they
were worth. For
example,
an editorial in the
Charleston News and Courier
attempted
to
reduce the
separate
but
equal
thesis to an
absurdity, sugges-
ing
the extent to which such a doctrine
might
lead. The Bour-
bons took
up
the
suggestions
and turned them into serious
pro-
positions.
In the next few
years every
one of the moves was
put
into effect in
varying
forms in all of the
states,
with the
exception
of
separate
counties for
Negroes. (As recently
as
1956 two
cities,
one in Florida and one in
Alabama,
passed
resolutions to set
up separate counties.)
After
the South had
become almost
completely segregated, Washington
retired
from
any
frontal
public
attack on the situation and seemed to
recognize,
if not
accept, segregation
as an
accomplished
fact.
DuBois
severely
criticized this
position,
as he held that
such issues should be ever
kept
before the
public.
To
keep
quiet,
he
argued,
was an act of
acceptance.
DuBois is
very pointed
in his criticism of
Washington
for
giving opinions
relative to
political
matters
and
even ac-
cuses him of
advising philanthropists against supporting higher
education for
Negroes. (If
the latter
charge
is
true,
Washing-
ton was a
failure;
for
Carnegie, Rockefeller,
Guggenheim,
Duke,
Slater,
Peabody, Phelps
and Stokes must then have
turned a deaf ear to his
advice.)
DuBois states: "After a
time almost no
Negro
institution could collect funds without
the
recommendation or
acquiescence
of Mr.
Washington.
Few
political
appointments
were made
anywhere
in the
U.S.
(among Negroes)
without his
consent.""
S0DuBois,
The Dusk
of Dawn,
p.
73.
146 HISTORY OF EDUCATION JOURNAL
DuBois went even
further,
claiming
that
Washington
had
created a "machine" which
sought
to
keep
him
impervious
to
attack
by
others. He
charged
that this
"machine,"
supported
by philanthropists,
even
bought
the
Negro press,
so that Wash-
ington
and his efforts would be ever
kept
before the
public.
He
alleged
that
Washington
had
"ghost"
writers to make out his
speeches.
Neither of these
charges
could be
documented,
but
they
do shown that bitterness had turned to
acrimony.
Sensing
the discord that was
developing among Negroes
and the use to which the Bourbons were
putting
this controver-
sy,
there came from the
philanthropic
element a move to
get
Washington
and DuBois
together
to
stop public bickering.
A
committee met with Du Bois and tried to interest him in
join-
ing Washington
at
Tuskegee.
DuBois and
Washington
did meet
to discuss the matter in 1904. This was not the first contact
the two men had had. DuBois had
applied
for a
position
at
Tuskegee earlier,
but had
accepted
the
position
at Atlanta
Uni-
versity
before
hearing
from
Washington
who was
favorably
impressed
with DuBois at that time. There is no direct record
of the two
meetings
of the men in
1904, although
in the works
of both there are comments from which some conclusions can
be drawn. DuBois does mention the
meetings
in a book
pub-
lished
forty years
later. Of the last
meeting,
he wrote: "I
got
no clear
understanding
of
just
what I was to do. There ensued
long delays,
and it seemed to me I wanted to make
my position
clear."'31He
went on to attack
Washington's
ideas in similar
vein to those attacks mentioned earlier.
Washington
made no
public
statement
directly,
but he
did attack DuBois
by
indirection. While not
calling any names,
he
harpooned
the "intellectuals" for
believing
that because
they
were born in the North and were
college graduates
from
northern
colleges
and universities and were
generally living
in the
North,
that the southerner was
incapable
of
accepting
leadership
in racial matters. He delivered a
scathing
attack
on their
opposition
to
attempts
to work out the
problems
with
the white
people
of the South. In
particular,
he attacked the
belief that the
Negro
would remain
"uncompromising"
and
maintain "relentless
antagonism
to the South" until all
injus-
tices were removed. "The truth
is,"
said
Washington,
"I sus-
pect.
. .
they
live too much in the
past. They
know
books,
but
Sl3bid.,
pp.
79-80.
THE WASHING TON-DUBOIS CONTROVERSY 147
they
know almost
nothing
about the
Negro," especially the
needs of the
Negro
in the South.
32
Needless to
say,
DuBois and
Washington
were never
to
get together
to work as a
team,
although except
for
general
statements,
the attack on
Washington
was lessened and
event-
ually stopped.
It
gave
him contact with the whites who
really
were not concerned with civil
rights
for
Negroes.
This
is
hardly true,
but it is worth
looking
into.
Having
seen the
Negro
all but
completely
disfranchised
by
the use of the white
primary
and made a second class
cit-
izen
by
the
"separate
but
equal" doctrine,
the liberal element
from the North and the moderates of the South made a move
which was to
bring
DuBois and
Washington
to the real
parting
of the
ways
but which was to contribute to a climate of
opinion
which
today may
lead to the elevation of
Negroes
to first class
citizenship,
even in the South. That was the education
through
philanthropy.
While no
attempt
will be made here to recount
in
any
detail the monumental effort
put
forth in this
regard,
a
general
statement is
necessary
to focus attention on the final
break between
Washington
and DuBois and to show how the
breach was healed in
private.
Men of wealth
began
to
pour
millions of dollars
into
southern
education, Negro
and
white,
for all
types
of schools
and
colleges-those
for the vocations and those for the
"Tal-
ented Tenth."
Many
individuals likewise contributed. It is
safe to
say
that without this
impetus,
southern education could
hardly
have
got moving,
and the fate of the
Negro
would have
been bad indeed. It is true that these funds and donors made
no
attempt
to dictate the
policies
of the South in
regard
to
po-
litics and civil
rights,
but
they
did insist that
states,
if
they
used such
funds,
must make honest efforts to educate the Ne-
gro.
The
philanthropy
of these
individuals,
hardheaded bus-
iness men who made their millions
through
ingenuity
and com-
petition,
was more than
charity.
It was
purposeful
giving,
mo-
tivated
by
their sense of the
trusteeship
of wealth. Contacts
had to be made with the
leading
men of the
South, Negro
and
white. From whom
among
the
Negroes
would
they
seek advice?
Certainly
not
DuBois;
although they recognized
the
great
work
3Booker T.
Washington, My Larger
Education
(New York: Double-
day
&
Page, 1911), 112,
127.
148 HISTORY OF EDUCATION JOURNAL
he was
doing, they
knew that his
position
was less
acceptable
to the Bourbons than was
Washington's.
It was less a
question
of whether
they
accented vocational education as
against
col-
lege education,
more a
question
of
having
someone in the South
who could talk with both moderates and Bourbons.
(It might
be noted that their funds were used for Atlanta
University,
Morehouse, Spellman
and Bennett for
women,
and
Fisk,
to
name a few
colleges
which were
offering
courses
designed
to
train the "Talented
Tenth.")
The
philanthropists,
it would
seem,
felt that time would
dissipate prejudices through
educa-
tion,
and the less said on the matter the better in the
long
run.
It was the influence
Washington
had with
philanthropists
and moderates and indeed with
presidents
that concerned Du-
Bois. William
McKinley
came to visit
Tuskegee. Washington
was to dine with Theodore Roosevelt-an incident which infur-
iated the Bourbons and contributed
greatly
to the
solidarity
of the Democratic
Party
in the South.
(One
southerner is re-
ported
to have
said,
"The
Republicans
under Lincoln
gave
the
Nigra political equality
and now under
Teddy
Roosevelt want
to
give
him social
equality.")
William Howard Taft had con-
ferences with
Washington.
None of this
pleased
DuBois or
many Negroes
who
deprecated Washington's
lack of a
college
education. Extremest attacks
by
Bourbons on all those who
dared
question
their actions
finally
chased DuBois from his
chair at Atlanta
University
and
completely
silenced
Washing-
ton.
However,
the attacks
gained support
and
sympathyfor
the
cause of the
Negro generally. Moreover,
it
brought
DuBois
and
Washington
closer
together.
A look at these events is
revealing.
Dr. Andrew
Sledd,
a
professor
at
Emory College,
near
Atlanta, Georgia, pub-
lished an article
deploring lynching
and
Jim-Crowism;
he was
fired. Later he was hired
by
the
University
of Florida where
he
eventually
became
president.
John
Spencer Bassett,
who
was to
gain
fame as an
historian,
was
severely
criticized for
publishing
in the Atlantic
Monthly
the comment that next to
Robert E.
Lee,
Washington
was the
greatest
man to come out
of the South in a
century. Although
the Board of
Directors
of
Trinity College,
now Duke
University,
did not fire
Bassett,
he
found southern
hospitality
to be such that he left. Enoch
Banks,
a native
Georgian,
was dismissed from the
University
of Flo-
rida in 1911 for
saying
in a
magazine
that the North was rela-
tively right and the South relatively wrong in the Civil War.A3
3sCash,
op. cit., pp.
324-325.
THE WASHINGTON-DUBOIS CONTROVERSY
149
It had become
wrong
to dissent in
public
in the
South.
With this as a
backdrop
and with the Atlanta riots of
1905
echoing
in his
ear,
DuBois severed his relations with
Atlanta
University.
He went to
Buffalo,
New
York,
where he and
twenty-
eight
others
organized
the
Niagara
Movement. It was
formal-
ly incorporated
in
Washington,
D. C. in 1906 with an
eight-point
program. Generally,
these
points
called for free
speech
and
press,
manhood
suffrage, dignity
of
labor,
abolition of
distinc-
tions based on
race,
and the
right
of all men to receive
any type
of education and
training
their abilities would
permit.
It called
on the Federal Government to see that such a
program
was
carried out.
34
The
Niagara
Movement created
quite
a sensation in
1906
when close to one hundred members marched barefooted
in
the streets of
Harper's Ferry, Virginia,
on their
way
to the
place
where John Brown had made his raid. This
movement,
while it aroused
many Negroes
to the acuteness of the race
problem,
did not attract
any
whites to its
membership.
In 1908 an incident in
Springfield,
Illinois focused atten-
tion on
just
how bad race relations
really
were. A
Negro
was
lynched
there and one of his kin came to New York and
gave
some details to a
group
of liberal whites and
Negroes.
A com-
mittee was formed of both
races,
with DuBois as a
member,
out of which was formed the National Association for the Ad-
vancement of Colored
People
in 1909. DuBois was named di-
rector of
publication
and research.
Recognizing
the contributions of both DuBois and Wash-
ington
and
taking
note of the
position
of the
Negro
both South
and
North,
it was decided that DuBois wasto continue his "re-
search" in the safer confines of the North and that he refrain
from
engaging
in
any personal
attacks
upon Washington.
It
seemed that the NAACP considered the better
part
of valor not
to have the two
leading Negroes feuding
with each other over
a
matter,
the end results of which both were in full
agree-
ment. Those closest to both DuBois and
Washington
knew that
both wanted the best for their race and that both could harm
their cause
by
their
differences. Thus the verbal controver-
sy ended,
as far as the
public
knew.
3DuBois, Dusk
of Dawn, pp.
88-89.
150 HISTORY OF EDUCATION JOURNAL
It would seem that
many
of the
charges
and counter char-
ges
attributed to both men were without real foundation. Who
could
deny
that the basic educational needs of the
Negro then,
and
possibly now, lay
in vocational
pursuits?
Who could
deny
that there was then and is now a need for
Negroes
trained in the
professions,
the
sciences,
and the arts?
Washington
did not
op-
pose
the latter nor DuBois the former. Who can
deny
that the
Negro
then was not
qualified
to hold offices of
government gen-
erally,
but that there was no reason to
deny
him the
right
to
vote? Who could
deny
that there was then and is now a need for
men who can
get along
with all the elements in the
population
as
well as those who can and will
spell
out
boldly
the true road
which leads to
citizenship
and
justice
for all?
Washington
be-
lieved this.35 DuBois believed this.
Then what of the
controversy
itself? There are no
records,
which could be found
here,
in the absence of their
personal papers,
to show that after the NAACP was formed there
were
any
attacks made
by
either man on the other. It is not
known,
for
example,
whether
Washington
ever
joined
that
organ-
ization. But of his
approval
of
it,
we are certain. In 1911 he
asked
publicly
for its
support,
and from then until he died he
worked with all
organizations
which
sought
to
improve
relations
between the races. True American that he
was,
he took no
part
in those extreme movements which
sought
to take the
Negro
from the United States. Not
only
did he
support
the
NAACP,
but
he worked even harder with the National Urban
League, feeling
that the
latter,
which had more
support
in the
South,
would tend
to ease the rather acute situation there. 36
People today, especially many youthful Negroes, judging
the
gains being presently
made
by
the
Negro throughout
the na-
tion and
especially
in the
South,
tend to besmirch or at least
criticize some
aspects
of
Washington's position.
But
they
for-
get
that their
judgment
is based on conditions in Mid-Twentieth
Century
United States. Two
generations
and two
global
wars
have come and
gone;
there are
today
better educated whites and
Negroes
who are more tolerant of each other. Even DuBois ad-
mits that much of the
opposition
to
Washington
was
"envy".
3sFranklin, op. cit., p.
390.
MSamuel
Spencer,
Booker T.
Washington
and the
Negro's
Place in
American
Life (Boston: Little,
Brown &
Co., 1955),
177.
THE WASHINGTON-DUBOIS CONTROVERSY 151
Admittedly, Washington
did
hedge
here and there and
ac-
cepted
the half
loaf,
not as a
permanent
solution as some
wanted
to
believe,
but as a means toward which the whole loaf could
be
obtained later on. To criticize this move is not
only baseless,
but is to
assume
that
Washington
had a choice in the matter.
It
was
just
as
simple
as
this--the
half loaf or
nothing.
He did
what
he had to do at the
time,
what was
possible
for him to do under
the
circumstances, and did it with utmost skill and
diplomacy.
His work was and is indeed as much
responsible
as that of
any-
one else for the break in the racial clouds.
Nor is
DuBois,
who
today
is
subjected
to much
adverse
criticism,
to be censured for his basic
position
then. His ef-
forts did kindle and
quicken
the
Negro
to a realization of his la-
tent
possibilities.
It was not a
tragedy,
it would
seem,
that such
a
controversy existed;
for the efforts of both men
prove
that
there was then and is now a need for the tolerant
respect
of di-
vergent opinions
on the same
problem;
that there was then and
is now a need for both
types
of leaders. One must wonder if
there is
today
such a balance of
leadership among Negroes
on
the means of
achieving
full
recognition
and
acceptance
as the
type
and class of citizen that both
Washington
and DuBois en-
visioned and for whom
they
worked.
Looking
back over the
controversy
and
judging
it
by
the
time of its
setting
and
placing
its
implications
on the
present
racial
situation,
these conclusions seem
inescapable:
1. The
controversy
was more
personal
than
ideological,
with
the
weight
of
pettiness falling
far more
heavily
on DuBois
and his
group
than on
Washington
and his
group.
The end
results tended to retard rather than aid the
problem
of the
South.
2. Both men were sincere in their
efforts,
but tended to view
the
problem
in too narrow a
circle,
and were far more
optim-
istic about its immediate
improvement
than conditions of the
times
warranted.
3.
Washington
was far more realistic in his
approach
to the
immediate needs of the
Negro
and in
dealing
with the
people
who had to be handled in order to
bring
about this
improve-
ment.
4. The
breach,
though
considered wide and
sharp,
revealed that
best results in
social, racial,
and economic matters cannot
be obtained
through rushing
and that the basic tenets of the
American Creed are so
deeply ingrained
in
the conscience of
152 HISTORY OF EDUCATION JOURNAL
the nation that the cause of
justice
and fair
play
will inevit-
ably
come to the
deserving.
5. The
sincerity
of the efforts of both
Washington
and DuBois
proved
to the
Negro
in
general
and the nation at
large that,
given
time and
opportunity, Negroes
could and would
prove
themselves
worthy
of the best there is in America.
6. The
publicity given
to their
differences,
while it retarded
racial
progress
somewhat in the
South,
did
bring
the
Negro
problem
into
sharper
focus
nationally, thereby helping
to
hasten the creation of the
present
climate of
public opinion
so favorable to the
improvement
of conditions of all minori-
ties.
7.
Finally,
it revealed that there were and are
many persons
of
good
will
throughout
the nation who believe in fair
play.
The
Washington-DuBois Controversy
did
help
and is
helping
to
provide
conditions
leading
to
improved
race relations.
CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS ISSUE
Edgar
B.
Wesley
is
visiting professor
of the
history
of
education at the
University
of
Michigan.
C.
Spenser Poxpey
is an administrator in the
public
schools in
Delray Beach,
Florida.