The Shared Goals of Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois

Presented by Bertis English, associate professor of history at Alabama State University

In September 1895, Booker T. Washington burst onto the national stage following the delivery of a short speech at the Cotton States and International, or Atlanta, Exposition. Whereas most people who listened to or read the Atlanta Exposition address praised Washington, a handful of northern black intellectuals and “radicals” considered the address “Uncle Tomish.” Ultimately, William E.B. Du Bois would become one of Washington’s chief black critics; initially, however, Du Bois praised Washington’s oration in Atlanta as well as Washington himself. Du Bois and Washington communicated regularly to design legal strategies to fight injustice. They also arranged academic and professional conferences, authored essays in the same books, and organized the National Negro Business League that the National Afro-American Council had asked Du Bois to head. Washington and Du Bois’s initial cooperation and shared goals prompted the historian John H. Clarke in 1985 to suggest that there should have been a “wedding between what Booker Washington was saying and what Du Bois was saying.” Instead, Washington was labeled a traditionalist, Du Bois a modernist, or “new” Negro, and conflicts were created that did not exist while Washington was alive. By reconstructing the shared economic, educational and political projects of Washington and Du Bois from 1894 through 1904, the presenter proposes to perform the wedding that Clarke suggested.

A microphone, large screen and LCD projector are requested.

Contact Bertis English to book this presentation
(334) 229-4368