Clash of the Titans

Washington's critics challenged him for several reasons. Some objected to his connections with white philanthropists. Others wanted Washington to share his power. Some were critical of his apparent position on segregation and outraged by his silence on lynching.

William Monroe Trotter and W. E. B. Du Bois were Harvard-trained black intellectuals who felt that Washington unfairly silenced his critics by purchasing influence and by using spies and agents. Du Bois didn't like the wide appeal Washington's message found among whites. He accused Washington of "leading the way backward" for African Americans; Trotter, editor of the Boston Guardian, wrote stinging editorials criticizing Washington and branding him the agent of separate and unequal treatment of Blacks. Ida B. Wells, a journalist from Memphis, Tennessee led the campaign against the lynching of African Americans. She was outraged by Washington's silence on lynching.

Du Bois emerged as one of Washington's most constant and vocal critics. While both Du Bois and Washington shared a commitment to black self help, Du Bois joined with black activists to form an organization that would provide Americans with an alternative to what he saw as the "accommodationist" policies of Booker T. Washington. The organization was called "The Niagara Movement" and later merged with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

While Washington continued to believe that change would come by providing African Americans vocational training, Du Bois and the NAACP moved ahead. Their aggressive legal and moral strategy would set the agenda for the modern civil rights movement of the 20th century.

 

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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