Progressivism Sweeps the Nation

42e. W. E. B. DuBois

Niagara Movement Founders
Founding members of the Niagara Movement, formed to assert full rights and opportunity to African Americans. "We want full manhood suffrage and we want it now.... We are men! We want to be treated as men. And we shall win." W.E.B. DuBois is on the second row, second from the right.

William Edward Burghardt DuBois was very angry with Booker T. Washington. Although he admired Washington's intellect and accomplishments, he strongly opposed the position set forth by Washington in his Atlanta Exposition Address. He saw little future in agriculture as the nation rapidly industrialized. DuBois felt that renouncing the goal of complete integration and social equality, even in the short run, was counterproductive and exactly the opposite strategy from what best suited African Americans.

Early Life and Core Beliefs

The childhood of W. E. B. DuBois could not have been more different from that of Booker T. Washington. He was born in Massachusetts in 1868 as a free black. DuBois attended Fisk University and later became the first African American to receive a Ph. D. from Harvard. He secured a teaching job at Atlanta University, where he believed he learned a great deal about the African American experience in the South.

DuBois was a staunch proponent of a classical education and condemned Washington's suggestion that blacks focus only on vocational skills. Without an educated class of leadership, whatever gains were made by blacks could be stripped away by legal loopholes. He believed that every class of people in history had a "talented tenth." The downtrodden masses would rely on their guidance to improve their status in society.

Political and social equality must come first before blacks could hope to have their fair share of the economic pie. He vociferously attacked the Jim Crow laws and practices that inhibited black suffrage. In 1903, he published The Souls of Black Folk, a series of essays assailing Washington's strategy of accommodation.

The Niagra Movement and the NAACP

In 1905, DuBois met with a group of 30 men at Niagara Falls, Canada. They drafted a series of demands essentially calling for an immediate end to all forms of discrimination. The Niagara Movement was denounced as radical by most whites at the time. Educated African Americans, however, supported the resolutions.

Four years later, members of the Niagara Movement formed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). This organization sought to fight for equality on the national front. It also intended to improve the self-image of African Americans. After centuries of slavery and decades of second-class status, DuBois and others believed that many African Americans had come to accept their position in American society.

DuBois became the editor of the organization's periodical called The Crisis, a job he performed for 20 years. The Crisis contained the expected political essays, but also poems and stories glorifying African American culture and accomplishments. Later, DuBois was invited to attend the organizational meeting for the United Nations in 1946.

As time passed, DuBois began to lose hope that African Americans would ever see full equality in the United States. In 1961, he moved to Ghana. He died at the age of 96 just before Martin Luther King Jr. led the historical civil rights march on Washington.

Instant Quiz

Which of the following does not represent Progressive ideals?

    Temperance Movement
    Social Gospel Movement
    Social Darwinism

Which U.S. president was not involved in the Progressive movement?

    Theodore Roosevelt
    Herbert Hoover
    William Howard Taft
    Woodrow Wilson

Ida Tarbell exposed the injustices of which of the following?

    Standard Oil
    The stock market
    Child labor
    City government

What happened as a result of Upton Sinclair's publication of The Jungle?

    Hot dog sales rose.
    Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act.
    Investigative journalism declined.
    Roosevelt became a supporter of socialism.

What was the first state to grant full women's suffrage?

    New York

What tactic did the American Woman Suffrage Association (led by Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell) use in its fight for women's voting rights?

    It fought for a constitutional amendment
    It endorsed Victoria Woodhull for President
    It actively lobbied state governments.
    It set up mock ballot boxes so women could vote in protest.

In what year was the 19th Amendment passed?


Booker T. Washington believed that African Americans in the South should focus on which of the following?

    Fighting the battle for social and political equality
    Obtaining a classical education
    Obtaining a vocational education
    Moving to the North

The NAACP was developed in order to

    fight for equality on the national front.
    support the teachings of Booker T. Washington.
    defend Jim Crow laws.
    apply the tenets of the Atlanta Exposition Address.

On the Web
The Souls of Black Folk
Yale University's Bartleby Library has the full text of W.E.B. DuBois's The Souls of Black Men on line. Be sure to check out Chapter III for DuBois's views on Booker T. Washington.
He (W.E.B. DuBois) was proud of his people, not because their color endowed them with some vague greatness but because their concrete achievements in struggle had advanced humanity and he saw and loved progressive humanity in all its hues — black, white, yellow, red and brown.
-Martin Luther King, in a speech delivered at Carnegie Hall in New York City, February 23, 1968. on the 100th birthday of W.E.B. Dubois

Note that the text of the speeches of MLK are protected by copyright. This link does not include the full text of the speech online.
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