William Edward Burkhardt DuBois is considered to be the savior of the black community during the 19th century. During the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, the black community was subjected to racism, slavery and inhumane practices in the United States of America. Likewise other reformists, DuBois also contributed towards the betterment of the black community (African Americans).
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The ideologies of DuBois have been interpreted in different manners in comparison to other reformists like Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey. While Washington’s method was not fully supportive of the African Americans, Garvey was considered to have adopted illegal means to demonstrate his support. This paper discusses the ideologies of DuBois and the effect that he had on the masses.
A Short Note on W. E. B. DuBois
William Edward DuBois was born in 1868 in Massachusetts. Many people remember him as an American historian, civil rights fighter, and a great sociologist. During his life, William helped establish several organizations to fight for the suppressed rights and needs of the African Americans in the country (White, 2008). Some of these organizations include the Niagara Movement and the NAACP established in the year 1909. During his time, he wanted to see African Americans free and successful. Because of this reason, he continued to change his views and perceptions such that he empowered the blacks to become free in American society.
Literature Review and the Circumstances That Instigated W. E. B. DuBois
One example of the economic disparity between the African Americans and the Americans was the basis of salary paid to workers. The African Americans were paid much less than the Americans for the same work. For a post of an engineer, an American was paid as much as 3 to 4.5 dollars a day whereas an African /American got only 2 to 2.5 dollars a day. Socially, the African Americans were neglected to such an extent that due to insufficient income, unhygienic living conditions and shortage of medical facilities, the rate of mortality was almost double than that in the case of Americans. African Americans were not allowed in important services like the police and judicial services. As a result, most of the arrested African Americans were convicted and moreover, their punishment was far severe than what was awarded to American convicts.
The Reconstruction was supposed to bring about major reformist changes in the social and economic conditions of African Americans. But unfortunately, it could not bring about the desired reforms. Even though the slavery system was abolished, the ethnic discrimination still persisted. Moreover, the rights that the African Americans were given during the Reconstruction were retracted imperatively, without leaving any scope of protest.
During these developments, DuBois had just completed his schooling and he was deeply perturbed by the condition of the African Americans. During the ensuing years, while doing his Ph. D., he wrote several books in which he tried to highlight the plight of the African Americans. According to Zhang Juguo, “DuBois was outspoken about African Americans’ weaknesses as a race. He admitted that African Americans as a mass had not reached a sufficiently high grade of civilization, and had not reached the social standards of the nation with respect to economic condition, mental training and social efficiency” (Juguo, 2002).
The ideologies of W. E. B. DuBois have been compared in different perspectives with different reformists. Adolph Reed suggested that “Against Washington, DuBois has been understood as a defender of radical activism and a pristine idealist. Against Garvey, he appears as an elitist integrationist…Communists claim him, his elitism notwithstanding, as do anti-communist Pan-African nationalist” (Reed, 1985).
Washington was considered to be a great leader of African Americans. But somehow DuBois could not approve of his ideologies and the method of working. According to DuBois, Washington was pro-American and was compromising on the interests of African Americans. According to Washington, the economic stability of the African Americans was more important than their social equality and that the immediate aim was economic independence.
His famous ‘Atlanta Compromise’ speech is proof of his ideology, wherein he urged the African Americans to compromise on their social equality status in lieu of jobs and higher education. He was of the opinion that once the African Americans were economically sound they would be able to fight for their social rights. According to Robert Gibson, “Washington counseled blacks to remain in the South, obtain useful education, save money, work hard, and purchase the property. By doing such things, Washington believed, the Negro could ultimately ‘earn’ full citizenship rights” (Gibson).
DuBois was totally against the ideologies of Washington and raised his voice against him. In his endeavor to attain justice and equality for the African Americans and to garner support against Washington, DuBois teamed up with 29 black leaders from different states and formed the ‘Niagara Movement’. Eventually, the movement was converted into the ‘National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and DuBois was made its Research and Publicity Director.
DuBois went to France as NAACP’s observer to participate in the ‘Paris Peace Conference’. During the proceedings, DuBois felt the necessity of spreading worldwide awareness of the plight of African Americans. But due to a lack of support from other African organizations, DuBois could not materialize his plans. Undeterred by the failure, in 1921 DuBois held another Pan-African conference where he was introduced to Marcus Garvey.
Garvey’s style of working was different from that of DuBois. Garvey believed in mass protests and conducted parades with people holding liberation flags. This attitude of Garvey did not go well with the government and as a result he was convicted of some fraud and sent to jail and was later exiled. DuBois had incessantly opposed Garvey’s ideology.
It was his tour of Russia that changed the ideology of DuBois. He went through the details of the Russian Revolution and was convinced that his present conformist integration thought was not the right way to reform the conditions of African Americans. He was very much impressed by the Russian social setup where there were no different classes or sects.
The other changing view of DuBois is that he continued to promote educational opportunities for individuals in the country and empowering the blacks to embrace peace in the country. He also educated his people about the need to empower themselves without necessarily involving themselves in activities such as strikes or attacking the whites (Winston, 2007). Through the fight against all forms of oppression and discrimination, the leader believed that he would successfully educate the people and understand how they could obtain maximum benefits from the integration. He also encouraged his people to embrace the relevance of different forms of education in order to be empowered (White, 2008).
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Discussion on the topic
History reveals that DuBois was a prominent individual in the country. He played an enormous role in the emancipation and empowerment of African Americans in the country. His tireless efforts helped to empower the people thus making it possible for them to fight white imperialism and discrimination that characterized the country during the last years of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century (Winston, 2007).
Being one of the black educators in the country his efforts helped a lot in changing the views of the people. It is therefore acknowledgeable that DuBois relied on different policies and ideologies that did help many people understand their unique positions in the country and the need of being free. He also managed to enlighten the people about African American emancipation and the need for economic prosperity in a society dominated by the whites (Quarles, 2009).
The hero, therefore, remains famous for his role in establishing good relationships among the blacks in the country. This made it possible for them to fight united for a general cause. Because of his roles to ensure the African Americans were free in the country, DuBois empowered the people by giving them good ideas and views about their position in the country as colored people.
It is also acknowledgeable that DuBois was against some of the moves and ideologies presented by some people like Booker Washington who viewed small businesses, economic involvement, and self-employment as the best ideas to empower the African Americans in the country. This was the sure way to have the people contented with their lives and realize economic prosperity. According to DuBois, this move was unnecessary because it did not help African Americans to become free.
Many people consider William DuBois as a great fighter in the history of the United States. He is among the first leaders whose efforts and opinions led to the Civil Movement that happened in the United States in the 20th century. Throughout his life, DuBois was concerned about his career and worked as a historian, sociologist, and educator. Through most of his teachings, DuBois influenced African Americans to stand up and fight for their rights. DuBois believed that it was the best way to ensure that people became free members of society. Because of his efforts to help his people, DuBois became one of the highly distinguished and respected educators in society (Johnson & Watson, 2004).
In most of his works, DuBois was concerned about the success of his people and this was the reason he provided them with the necessary incentives and ideas towards their prosperity. He also stood firm against racism and discrimination that continued to characterize American society during the time. He used his works and publications to address issues such as unemployment and racial discrimination in the country. In his life, he was also concerned about the welfare of blacks in different sectors such as the military. He traveled widely into different continents to address issues of bigotry and prejudice against the blacks.
W. E. B. DuBois was certainly a savior for the black community in America. He fought for their rights and at the same time, educated them about their rights and encouraged them to fight united for the cause. People were motivated to a great extent by his speeches and written works. As a result of his incessant endeavors, today the African Americans live happily in peace and harmony with the white Americans. Even though his ideologies changed with the passage of time, he was always concerned about the betterment of his fellow black people.
Gibson, Robert. n.d. Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. DuBois: The Problem of Negro Leadership. n.d. Web.
Johnson, Keith V., and Watson Elwood. 2004. “The W. E. B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington Debate: Effects upon African Roles in Engineering and Engineering Technology.” Journal of Technology Studies 1: 65-70.
Juguo, Zhang. 2002. W. E. B. DuBois: The Quest for the Abolition of the Color Line. United States of America: Routledge.
Quarles, Benjamin. 2009. The Negro in the Making of America. New York: Macmillan.
Reed, Adolph. 1985. “W. E. B. DUBOIS: A Perspective on the Bases of His Political Thought.” Political Theory: 431-456.
White, John. 2008. Black Leadership in America, from Booker T Washington to Jesse Jackson. New York: Longman.
Winston, Michael R. 2007. “Through the Back Door: Academic Racism and the Negro Scholar in Historic Perspective.” Daedalus 100: 678-719.