An Essay Written by DAMMEON B. HICKS-MARSHALL
In the beginning stages of a new society, advanced programs such as social welfare were often neglected. New England was no different. They focused on the growth of the economy by stabling themselves as a legitimate nation—separate and a part of England. Consequently, social policies and social welfare reforms were neglected. As the time progressed, African Americans suffered the most due to lack of social policies, specifically those of equality. The United States is portrayed as a nation valuing democracy, freedom, and justice for all. Often, equality and justice were limited to the Anglo-Saxons. Although African Americans were free, racial oppression had manifested and caused them a variety of mental strife. They were burdened, mentally distressed, and struggled with self-identification. Throughout time, leaders emerged in the African American community who addressed their issues with the social policies or lack thereof. Two prominent figures were W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington. Although their platforms were very different, they focused on the same struggle. An exploration of both men and their position on certain social policies and welfare reform will reveal the development of a conscious Black America.
The social environments where Du Bois and Washington were raised impacted their ideologies. Du Bois was raised in a peaceful, reserved town in Great Barrington, Massachusetts with few blacks and minimum acts of racism (Stafford, 2005). On the other hand, Washington was raised in Virginia during the time when southern blacks suffered at the mercy of all white men (Stafford, 2005). Their contrasting social environments influenced their individual stages of growth and development from infants to adults. It influenced the way they identified problems, as well as how they determined intervention strategies. Du Bois emphasized the collaboration of economic growth and education. During the process of advancing in society, he wanted advancement without subordination. Washington also emphasized economic growth but without the cost of assimilation. He advocated accepting racial segregation in exchange of land from white southerners to build an educational institution. The two leaders often had opposing views on how to successfully emerge from the inequality, oppression, and abuse they were experiencing. Du Bois believed in order to triumph from these battles, education needed to be the primary weapon for people. On the other hand, Washington believed in a more submissive approach.
As people of color continued to experience inequality, Du Bois became proactive, using his knowledge as a resource. His goal was to establish mutual respect amongst all ethnic groups. Du Bois displayed grave concerns, as some black people experienced horrendous treatment such as lynchings and beatings in their quest for fulfillment or self-actualization. Du Bois, a scholar and an activist, believed in reading, attending and giving lectures, studying and practicing certain discipline methods, and also devoted his energy to the attainment of liberation which seemed to be unattainable by many (Stafford, 2005). Nevertheless, he was steadfast with his philosophies and true to himself to fight for a better America, not just a white America.
As a result, Du Bois attempted several intervention plans to overcome the effects of oppression, racism, and discrimination. These included movements, lectures, and writings. He often faced discouragement from whites as well as blacks. He became frustrated and weary. He could not understand the methodology of black people’s platform on taking a stand for what was “right,” more specially, the lack thereof. Although he received criticism from other leaders such as Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey, Du Bois was persistent. He continued to observe the oppression that blacks were experiencing and knew what kept his internal flame burning. Regardless of what may have come his way, he was persistent in what he felt destined to accomplish. Through Du Bois’s exposure to different countries, he was able to analyze the scandalous and inhumane behaviors demonstrated by Americans. Despite confusion and opposition, he remained vocal and became an advocate for people of color.