The Souls of Black Folk

A Comparison of Booker T. Washington’s and W.E.B. Dubois’ Approaches to Assimilation Using Blacks and Asian Americans as Models

In some sense, the stage for the debate over how best to address racial inequality was set by Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois. In the aftermath of the civil war, these two leading Black figures put forth their contrasting ideas. Towards the long term goal of complete assimilation of Blacks into mainstream society, Washington advocated an emphasis on steady economic growth, while Dubois put more emphasis on immediate political agitation. There has never been a clear, evidence-based method to compare the two theoretical approaches, because they are almost mutually exclusive. However, in modern times America’s minority has expanded to include groups other than Black, such as Asians, and these two groups can be compared as concrete examples of the Washington plan and the Dubois plan. It is clear through the course of history that African Americans have traveled the Dubois route, as they have definitely had a history of agitation for political rights, litigation, and so forth. On the other hand, Asians have gone more the Washington route, as they have pursued a more economic approach and remain relatively apolitical even today. Thus, weighing Black and Asian success or assimilation in American society can be seen as an...

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