UMass Amherst
Du Bois: Activist Life
There came a controversy between myself and Booker T. Washington, which became more personal and bitter than I had ever dreamed.
--W.E.B. Du Bois
In an autobiography, Du Bois wrote: "There came a controversy between myself and Booker T. Washington, which became more personal and bitter than I had ever dreamed. There was first of all the ideological controversy. I believed in the higher education of a talented tenth who through their knowledge of modern culture could guide the American Negro into a higher civilization. I knew that without this leadership the Negro would have to accept white leadership, and that such leadership could not always be trusted to guide this group into self realization and to its highest cultural possibilities. Mr. Washington, on the other hand, believed that the Negro as an efficient worker could gain wealth and that eventually through his ownership of capital he would be able to achieve a recognized place in American culture and then might educate his children and develop his possibilities. For this reason, he proposed to put the emphasis upon training in industry and common labor."

"But beyond this difference of ideal lay another and more bitter controversy. This started with the rise at Tuskegee Institute, and centering around Booker T. Washington, of what I may call the Tuskegee Machine. I was greatly disturbed at this time, not because I was in absolute opposition to the things that Mr. Washington was advocating, but because I was strongly in favor of more open agitation against wrongs and above all, I resented the practical buying up of the Negro press and choking off even mild and reasonable opposition to Mr. Washington in both the Negro press and the white."

Du Bois' opposition led to the founding of the Niagara Movement to counter Washington's influence and to press for a more direct redress of grievances for black Americans.

Du Bois around 1907 Du Bois around 1907.

Du Bois to Trotter letter Du Bois enlisted the help of allies in his crusade against Booker T. Washington's "Tuskegee machine." In a letter to William Monroe Trotter, editor of the Boston Guardian, Du Bois asked for "every scrap of evidence" that would prove Washington's control over Afro-American newspapers.

Booker T. Washington Booker T. Washington, President of Tuskegee Institute.

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