The Aim of Education for the Black Population
The issues that were raised through the notable debate between Booker T.
Washington and W.E.B. Dubois focus on the problems with Negro leadership prior to the
turn of the 20
During this time, the problem regarding Negro leadership was
obvious; how to obtain first-class citizenship for the colored American. Overcoming this
obstacle was the source of extensive disputes among Negro leaders. Common outcomes
suggested that Negroes resort to peaceful, democratic means to change their unpleasant
circumstances; encouraging them to become skilled workers, in hope that if their work
became essential, then rights would eventually be granted to them. Some exercise more
violent actions in fight for their civil rights, but most agreed that resolution would come
in time. Near the turn of the century, Negro leadership was divided among two tactics for
racial equality, the economic strategy and the political strategy. The most heated
controversy at this time exploded between two remarkable black men; Booker T.
Washington, the major spokesman for the gradualist economy strategy, and W.E.B.
DuBois, the primary advocate of the gradualist political strategy.
Washington’s philosophy of education developed as a result of the circumstances
he had experienced in acquiring his own education. Washington believed, “…what our
people most needed was to get a foundation in education, industry, and property…”
(Washington, p. 97). In attempt to understand his standpoint, it is important to keep in
mind where he came from, and what he had been through. The principles that
Washington emphasized were ones that he initiated while enrolling at Hampton. Such as
the importance of hygiene; as impractical as it sounds, basic hygiene became a critical
aspect of what was taught at Tuskegee. Washington notes that, of all he learned, “I
sometimes feel that almost the most valuable lesson I got at the Hampton Institute was in
the use and value of the bath” (Washington, p. 94). This was a man who was less
concerned with learning from a book, than he was focused on learning how to function
and become successful in mainstream society. He felt that, “…in the present condition of
the negro race in this country, there is a need of something more” (Thornbrough, pg. 41).
In teaching his students to function and succeed in society, Washington sought to
show them how to be self-reliant. Maureen Stocker describes this self-reliance as more
than the capability to merely ‘get by in life’, it created understanding.
In addition to
learning how to do something, he taught his students how to problem solve; initiating key
tools necessary for critical thinking. Contrary to critic’s claims, the industrial education
method was not about teaching the simple technique to build a labor force; his method