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November 16, 2005

Of Mr. Booker T. Washington

Du Bois, ''The Souls of Black Folk'' (selections) (1903) -- American Literature, 1800-1915 (EL 266)

"And yet this very singleness of vision and thorough oneness with his age is a mark of the successful man. It is as though Nature must needs make men narrow in order to give them force. So Mr. Washington’s cult has gained unquestioning followers, his work has wonderfully prospered, his friends are legion, and his enemies are confounded."

First of all, I read the first two sentences of this quote and felt inspired. Dubois seemed very complimentary of Washington's work. This made me alter my opinion of Washington's work. In previous blogs, I noted that I thought Washington was trying to appeal the upper-class white people, rather than "all people." I don't often change my views based on what others think, but because Dubois seemed to really respect Washington's work, it leads me to believe that this information may have appealed to both blacks and whites at this time. My belief is supported by what Dubois said regarding Washington's black peers. "But aside from this, there is among educated and thoughtful colored men in all parts of the land a feeling of deep regret, sorrow, and apprehension at the wide currency and ascendancy which some of Mr. Washington’s theories have gained."

At the same time, I find it interesting that Dubois chose the word "cult" to describe Washington's followers. He could have chosen a lot of other words (i.e. group, club, gathering, followers, etc.) Also, he said that they are unquestioning. This may be good, but I think of the most famous "followers", which I believe to be the disciples of Jesus Christ. They constantly questioned things. No matter what group you are in, I should hope you question the principles and beliefs, just to prove that you really believe and know the doctrines.


Posted by MeredithHarber at November 16, 2005 11:42 PM


I also noticed the use of the word "cult". It seems like he is turning it into a negative thing then. Almost being sarcastic even. He has a "cult" of followers listening to his preaching- like Washington was trying to brainwash the blacks he was addressing. Not that this is my opinion, but it's what it seems from his remarks.

Posted by: Vanessa at November 16, 2005 11:55 PM


Definitely. The "cult" and "unquestioning" really get me. It's like, Dubois respected his academic work, but also thought he was somewhat of an over-rated celebrity! I don't really know. Just some ramblings.

Posted by: Meredith Harber at November 17, 2005 12:06 AM

I think DuBois was respectful also of Washington's work, but once I read the end pages of it, I noticed that he was more cynical and criticized his work. Like how he said Washington's work "shifts the burden of the Negro problem to the the Negro's shoulders and stand aside as critical". I think DB is more targeted towards the blacks of the South, as where Wash. was towards the whites. hmmmm

Posted by: Ashley Holtzer at November 17, 2005 08:33 AM

I think that as much as Dubois admired the foundation that Washington set for him, he also undermines his ideals for what a black race should do. In the one blog about Booker T. Washington, I believed that Washington was really comparable to Martin Luther King Jr. Now that I look more into it, I think that Dubois is more like him. Instead of wanting to just be noticed, Dubois is looking for the rise of blacks, the empowerment of education for them, and the overall ideal of equality for all races. Dubois used Washington as a stepladder, taking everything that Washington has done, and made supreme advancements. I really feel strongly about this category, so if you get a chance, comment on my blog about W.E.B. Dubois.

Posted by: Jason Pugh at December 5, 2005 08:26 PM

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