In W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk, I read the essay, “Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others.” To read it, see here. It was from this essay that the character of Simon Haley in Roots: The Next Generation quoted—right when Booker T. Washington was about to come to speak at his college!
Essentially, Du Bois dislikes Booker T.’s approach of trying to promote the economic advancement of African-Americans, while purposefully neglecting the pursuit of their political equality and higher education, in order to appease white society. Booker T. primarily sought the industrial education of African-Americans, which satisfied white society—happy that this was all that African-Americans wanted for themselves. Du Bois not only finds Booker T.’s approach to be demeaning towards African-Americans—in that it seeks to exchange their dignity for their economic advancement—but he also doubts that African-Americans will be able to advance economically without political equality and higher education. Without political equality, African-Americans will be ruled by people they did not choose—politicians who can undermine their rights to property as well as obviate their economic independence. And, because African-Americans who had received a higher education were the ones who were behind industrial education, abandoning the higher education of African-Americans will cause industrial education to fall by the wayside as well.
There were other interesting parts of this essay. First, Du Bois said that he could understand African-Americans being refused the right to vote if they are ignorant, but he states that racism is the cause of their degradation. That’s why he supports schools for African-Americans. Second, Du Bois speaks against African-Americans acting like all of white America is hostile to them, for that is not the case.