Washington, DuBois, and Racial Discourse .
As the dialogues on race wear on – and as America, as a country, continues to suffer from racial fractures that run deep indeed – the historical figures (meaning just that – the figurative modern representations) of Booker T. Washington and WEB Dubois continue to act as politically-charged lightning rods. Often, Washington is angrily deferred to as an “Uncle Tom” where Dubois is championed as the true hero of African-American ideals. And, by the same token, those who hold Washington in higher regard look at Dubois as an intellectual radical; a critic who could do no better than to attempt to knock down the pillars of what Washington had striven to build. .
The two men – Dubois and Washington – have become larger than life, and, as such, much of the original meaning of their words is distorted or used in almost battering-ram fashion by warring political factions – in the public and private sectors. But the two men, in actuality, agreed upon much. To examine what the two disagree upon is to embark upon an exploration of the narratives that they present us with; the primary sources they leave behind as their legacies. We must look for the source of the disagreement in what they tell us they see – what they base their most fundamental premises on. We must ask, given that both men value empirical knowledge, exactly what is it in these two narratives of history and race – Up From Slavery and The Souls of Black Folk – that shows two differing perspectives. .
DuBois many times defines himself in The Souls of Black Folk by setting himself up as an alternative to Washington. So to view Dubois” narrative we must first turn the page back, as it were, to Booker T. Washington, and look at his autobiography as the progenitive narrative force in the discussion. Without Washington there may be Dubois, but not in the sense we know him. .
What, then, is the narrative of Up From Slavery about? .