Know Your History: BLM Debate Was Settled Years Ago Between Du Bois and Washington


The Black Lives Matter movement has revealed an ideological rift within the black community.

While many support the revolutionary Marxism of the movement, there is also increasing support for conservatism, traditional values and even President Donald Trump.

The black community has leaders on both sides of the debate, with left-leaning spokespeople such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson facing off against Larry Elder and young up-and-coming conservatives like Candace Owens.

This rift is nothing new.

In fact, it goes back over 100 years to the lives of African-American leaders Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) and W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963).

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Booker T. Washington vs. W.E.B. Du Bois

Washington was a former slave who worked his way through school with high grades before founding the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, (now called Tuskegee University) according to his profile.

Similarly, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois developed a passion for academics, becoming the first African-American to earn a PhD from Harvard before co-founding the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, his own Biography profile says.

Was Booker T. Washington correct?

The two accomplished academics were known for their debate over which method would help the black community the most — gaining economic skills through hard work or combating the racism of America with protests, activism and a Marxist restructuring of society.

While Washington’s philosophy of self-help and hard work resembles the rhetoric of the conservative black leaders of today, Du Bois’ approach mirrors that of the BLM movement.

Du Bois Wanted To Tear Down the System

Much like the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement, Du Bois was a self-described Marxist.

By the end of his life, according to a 1961 article in The New York Times, Du Bois went as far as to join the Communist Party USA.

“Until the Russian Revolution, Karl Marx was little known in America. He was treated condescendingly in the universities, and regarded even by the intelligent public as a radical agitator whose curious and inconvenient theories it was easy to refute,” Du Bois wrote in a 1933 article titled “Marxism and the Negro Problem.”

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“Today, at last, we all know better, and we see in Karl Marx a colossal genius of infinite sacrifice and monumental industry, and with a mind of extraordinary logical keenness and grasp.”

Additionally, Du Bois’ far-left ideology was reflected in his support of black nationalism, which eventually lead to a split between him and the NAACP.

“In 1934, Du Bois resigned from the NAACP board and from The Crisis because of his new advocacy of an African American nationalist strategy that ran in opposition to the NAACP’s commitment to integration,” Du Bois’ bio on the NAACP website says.

Washington Believed in Hard Work And Education

Directly opposed to Du Bois’ beliefs, Washington believed that integration and the end of racism could be achieved through the hard work of African-Americans themselves, rather than through activism and a redistribution of wealth.

Washington understood that it wasn’t a lack of wealth that primarily afflicted impoverished African Americans, but instead a lack of market skills.

“No race that has anything to contribute to the markets of the world is long in any degree ostracized. It is important and right that all privileges of the law be ours, but it is vastly more important that we be prepared for the exercise of these privileges,” Washington said during his famous Atlanta Exposition Address in 1895.

“The opportunity to earn a dollar in a factory just now is worth infinitely more than the opportunity to spend a dollar in an opera house.”

PragerU, a nonprofit organization that creates educational videos about Judeo-Christian principles, produced a video narrated by Project 21’s Derryck Green that explores the life of Washington.

“[Washington] was first, last and always a pragmatist. He believed gradual improvements, improvements that blacks would earn through education, entrepreneurship and personal responsibility, were the keys to black empowerment and ending racism,” Green said in the video, which was released last month. “It wasn’t fair, but it was reality.”

“Today, in an America that is open to and accepting of all races, Washington’s prescription for black success is more relevant than ever. That made him a great leader and a prophet.”

History Proved Washington Was Right and Du Bois Was Wrong

In the America of today, Washington’s philosophies have been proven to be correct, whereas Du Bois’ have had a crippling effect on the black communities where they’ve been implemented.

Racial bias is not nearly as much of an impediment to those in poverty as bad decisions are.

Two think tanks on different sides of the political spectrum, the left-wing Brookings Institution and the right-wing Heritage Foundation, agree on the most successful formula for escaping poverty: finish high school, marry before having children and get a job.

That last step, getting a job, is made difficult by the welfare state — policies which redistribute wealth to the impoverished in much the same way that the Marxist systems lauded by Du Bois would.

Respected economist Thomas Sowell explained the devastating effects of welfare in a 2015 column.

“Non-judgmental subsidies of counterproductive lifestyles are treating people as if they were livestock, to be fed and tended by others in a welfare state — and yet expecting them to develop as human beings have developed when facing the challenges of life themselves,” Sowell wrote.

“Behavior matters and facts matter, more than the prevailing social visions or political empires built on those visions.”

If Americans take the time to thoroughly examine the lessons of history, we would all know that the remedy for impoverished Americans of all colors isn’t offering free handouts or defunding the police.

The solution certainly isn’t fighting the unproven, invisible ghost that is “systemic racism.”

Instead, it is hard work, family values and improved educational opportunities.

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Michael wrote for a number of entertainment news outlets before joining The Western Journal in 2020 as a staff reporter. He now manages the writing and reporting teams, overseeing the production of commentary, news and original reporting content.
Michael Austin graduated from Iowa State University in 2019. During his time in college, Michael volunteered as a social media influencer for both PragerU and Live Action. After graduation, he went on to work as a freelance journalist for various entertainment news sites before joining The Western Journal in 2020 as a staff reporter.

Since then, Michael has been promoted to the role of Manager of Writing and Reporting. His responsibilities now include managing and directing the production of commentary, news and original reporting content.
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