THE NATION CLASSROOM
American History as It Happened
RACE RELATIONS and CIVIL RIGHTS
MODULE THREE: 1900-1919
STUDENT PRACTICE ACTIVITY ONE
Analyze: Carefully re-read Documents One and Three, then answer the questions below about their content.
1. Compare the differences in the writers’ purpose for composing Documents One and Three. How do these different functions affect the way the articles are written?
Both documents include opinion and reporting about Booker T. Washington.
Document One is a book review, in which the reviewer’s task is to evaluate the content and form of Du Bois’s book, “The Souls of Black Folk.” The reviewer not only quotes Du Bois’s commentary on Washington; he also analyzes the validity of those comments.
Document Three is an editorial tribute to Washington’s achievements. This writer comes to praise the educator, and while he does incorporate others’ comments about Washington, he uses them only to support his claim of Washington’s greatness.
2. Characterize the attitudes expressed in the two excerpts about the achievements of Booker T. Washington. How are the attitudes similar? How do they differ?
The reviewer and the editorialist agree that Washington is an important figure who has achieved significant things. They differ on the importance of criticism of his methods.
In the Document One, the reviewer agrees with the Du Bois book’s contention that there have been setbacks to the African American cause during the years of Washington’s ascendency, and he appears to give credence to some of Du Bois’s critique. However, the reviewer also cautions us that he is not in total agreement with Du Bois on that point.
The author of Document Three is fully in agreement with the praise of Washington offered both by Du Bois and the reviewer. This author admits that the educator has his detractors but despite that he is a fervent fan of Washington’s ability to reach across the racial divide (“Mr. Washington is to-day a great interpreter and leader. This must be recognized, whether one agrees with him in all his views or not”).
3. What does the author of Document Two mean by this statement: “That here is not merely coincidence, but effect, is Mr. Du Bois’s contention.”
The reviewer is pointing out Du Bois’s contention that Washington’s accommodationist approach bears responsibility for the lessening of the status of African Americans during these years
4. Discuss what these two excerpts reveal about differences of opinion about strategy among African Americans of the early 20th century.
These excerpts are examples of the split that existed in the black community around the desirability and effectiveness of Booker T. Washington’s leadership: While many admired him and felt that he was advancing the African American cause (as the editorialist says, “Mr. Washington is to-day a great interpreter and leader”), others found his methods lacking and dangerous (“Mr. Washington asks the negro to surrender, at least for the present, political power, insistence on civil rights, the higher education”). This debate in black community between accommodation and confrontation didn’t just pertain between 1900 and 1919; it continued to be fought over throughout the 20th century.