The rights, in hopes that they will come in

The ideas of segregation by African Americans reflect to what degree former slaves were willing to fight for their civil rights, and primordially, how they viewed their disheartening situation. The first of these ideas is formulated in Booker T. Washington’s 1806 Atlanta Compromise Speech. The intention of this speech was to establish a compromise involving the civil rights of African Americans for economic opportunities. Washington encourages his people to seize the opportunities given to them by white folks by telling them to “‘cast down your bucket where you are’– cast it down in making friends in every manly way of the people of all races by whom we are surrounded.” At the same time, he reassures the white population that “we shall stand by you with a devotion that no foreigner can approach.” Washington calls for his people not to be fixate too heavily on the political issues that segregate them by saying that “the wisest among my race understand that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremest folly.” Thus, Washington calls for his people to conform to industrial education and manual labour rather than to protest for their civil rights, in hopes that they will come in due time. The Niagara Movement Speech authored by W.E.B Du Bois in 1905 takes a far more radical and demanding approach. Unlike Washington’s docile compromise, Du Bois explicitly states that ‘we want discrimination in public accomodations to cease’. His approach towards segregation demands swift justice against wrongs like the Mississippi Plan, wanting ‘every state disfranchised in Congress which attempts to disenfranchise its rightful voters.’ Du Bois calls for full political, civil and social rights for African Americans; he asks for education, desegregation and equal economic opportunities. To achieve these goals, he asks the youth to ‘stand up for the right, prove yourselves worthy of your heritage and whether born north or south dare to treat men as men.’ Hence, Du Bois incites whites to acknowledge not only their capabilities as workers, but also their dignity as Americans.These two different perspectives may be justified by their differing backgrounds. Washington’s compromise can be linked to his childhood in slavery, for he was most likely taught to defer to white supremacy as a slave, leading him to believe in docility and not protest. Thus, Du Bois’ fierce determination for equality can be interpreted as a result of his more tolerant upbringing after the Civil War, for he had not been socialized as a slave and therefore, developed a higher sense of self-worth. These two situations show us that there was no single approach against segregation; Du Bois impatience for civil rights was a direct opposition to Washington’s intention of humbling their people in order to be able to obtain work. This pattern of duality between radicality and compromise can be seen in the earlier Abolitionist movement; the Garrisonians, for instance, demanded immediate emancipation while other groups like the Free Soilers were more interested in preventing the spread of slavery. As for my thoughts on their different responses, I would like to opine that while Washington’s speech gives words of encouragement and honest work, Du Bois’ candor and conviction appear far more admirable to me in that he not only fights for civil rights, but also for the ideals of basic human dignity. As he himself concludes his speech, “the battle for humanity is not lost or losing.”

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