which was the more serious problem for African Americans after reconstruction racial discrimination or economic hardship? include the views and disagreements between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B DuBois.

History of African American community in the US has been dominated by racial segregation and endless oppression.  The social, economic and political obstacles experienced by African American was grounded on race, immigration status and pre-existing perception of their inferiority. From the height of slavery in 1700s, the Southern States where plantations were the backbone of the economy, the Blacks were treated inhumanly, and portrayed as non-citizens. Towards 1800s, civil activism towards recognition of the Black’s right to participate in political process had gained momentum (Du, Bois 43). Post-civil war constitutional amendments allowed African Americans to own land and gain access to education. However, with the emancipation of African Americans, the Whites in the Southern states began to feel threatened and systematically orchestrated a new ways of restoring their supremacy over the Blacks (Gallagher and Cameron 54). There were use of such terrorist outfits such as Ku Klux Klan to impose the authority of the whites over Blacks, institutional voting prohibitive measures such as poll tax, literacy and other conditions that apparently targeted prevented many Blacks from participating in political processes. Besides, the Jim Crow era that was climaxed by the court ruling of “Separate but equal doctrine” in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896).

It is evident that the worst problem African Americans faced was slavery of the mind through institutionally sanctioned barrier to education by the Blacks. From the time of mass slavery in the South, illiteracy was a tool used to prevent the Blacks from realizing the need for freedom. In 1877, there was mass immigration to the North as a way of seeking better job and social life prospects away from the cruel segregation in the South. In 1900s, there was a progressive pressure by African American civil activists such as Frederick Douglass. African Americans had to navigate the institutional discrimination that was silently keeping the status quo but preaching equality. In a frantic effort to fight for equality in decision-making bodies and overall social fabric of America, Black civil rights activists devised various methods. The approaches were meant to respond to the increasing segregation post the civil war and reconstruction era (Gallagher and Cameron 65).

At the center of the African American post-construction problem was the limited access to education for a better and competitive job prospective like the whites. In an attempt to reconcile the rising racial tension that was to the disadvantage of the people of color, two outstanding African American scholars sparked a new socio-economic and political wave in the US. From all indications, African Americans seemed like second-class citizens as they were mostly employed in semi-skilled jobs while others continued as tenant plantation workers in the South. In that regard, most African Americans were not able to pursue education with the consequence of continued life-quality gap. The appropriate approach of settling the grievances of the blacks sparked a controversy between two African American scholars, Booker T. Washington and W.E.B DuBois (Du, Bois 57). The conflict ideologies of the two famous blacks exhibited the long way African American community had to go in attempts to achieve equality.

Booker T. Washington was one of the famous African American personalities that got education and led the campaign towards socio-economic freedom of the Blacks. He founded the Tuskegee Institute in 1882 that offered vocational training and Agricultural techniques. As a respected public speaker with apparent knowledge of whites and blacks racial tension and differences, he gave series of speeches to advance the course of African Americans. However, his most sensational speech was delivered in Atlanta, 1895 and came to be known as Atlanta compromise. Washington outlined is view that African Americans needed to concentrate on improving their efforts towards provision of labor to the whites in exchange of more earning and better living standard (Gallagher and Cameron 85). In other words, Washington promoted the perception of Black inferiority and apparently accommodated segregation in an effort towards reconciling the Blacks and the whites. In essence, Washington emphasized that African Americans ought to have relinquished civil rights and social equality and instead seek economic self-improvement (Gallagher and Cameron 86). Both white and a better section of African American civil rights activists lauded this speech.  However, W.E.B Dubois boldly attached the philosophy of Washington. According to Dubois, education was the lethal weapon that would help African American defeat social, economic and political justice propagated by successive White political regimes. In his book, The Souls of Black Folks (1903), Dubois pointed out that acquisition of higher education would help the Black elite to use the ballot box to directly agitate for equality (Du, Bois 73). His confrontation of Washington’s speech portrayed the division among African American community on the best strategy to fight segregation. In this entire encounter, slavery of the mind through deprivation of education among the Blacks was at play (Hubbard 251).

To assert the intensity of the problem of limited education among the African America, ruling on Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1954 exposed the underlying reality that contradicted the doctrine of equal but separate. Until the ruling on this case, African Americans were practically blocked from climbing the social ladder through federal sanctioned limit of access to education. In that regard, quality of education among the Blacks was low and reflected in their representation in various decision-making spheres of American society.


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