Booker Taliaferro Washington was born on April 5, 1856 into slavery on Burroughs Plantation in southwest Virginia. Washington had a white father, but he was absent from his childhood life. Washington was raised as a butler/servant, or what is most commonly known as a house slave. This was because he had etiquette and was half Caucasian. After nine years, his family gained freedom in 1865, just as the Civil War was ending. Washington drove his way through Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute and attended college at Wayland Seminary, all while working a janitorial position for the funding of his education.
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was born on February 23, 1868, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, to Alfred and Mary Du Bois. The Du Bois’ were part of a very small free black population of Great Barrington who were poor. At a young age W.E.B.’s father abandoned his family, and eventually died shortly after. W.E.B. later attended the local integrated public school and played with white school children. When Du Bois decided to attend college, the congregation of his childhood church donated money for his tuition. Du Bois attended Fisk University. When Du Bois traveled to the South, it was his first experience with Southern racism, which included the implementation of Jim Crow laws, intolerance, and lynchings. After receiving a bachelor's degree from Fisk, he attended Harvard. Du Bois paid his way through three years at Harvard with money from summer jobs, scholarships, and loans. Later in his life, with a grant from the Slater Fund, Du Bois studied at the University of Berlin, where he was convinced to believe in Sociology, which alleged the promise that social problems could be solved by scientific principles.
Booker T. Washington believed that racism and discrimination could be ended through economic improvements. He elaborated on that idea by proposing that Blacks should move more slowly toward racial progression. He also believed that Blacks would eventually gain respect and the right to exercise all American freedoms if things were done peacefully and respectfully. In 1895, Booker T. Washington gave the Atlanta Compromise speech before the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta. His address was one of the most important and influential speeches in American history, guiding African-American resistance to white discrimination and establishing Washington as one of the inspirational black leaders. Washington’s speech stressed accommodation rather than resistance to the racist order under which Southern African Americans lived.Because Washington's program pacified whites, enormous monetary contributions from white philanthropists were given to Tuskegee and other institutions that adopted the Washington philosophy. Washington's status grew to the point where he was regarded as the spokesman for the entire Negro community. With strong white support, Washington became the outstanding black leader not only in the fields of education and philanthropy, but in business and labor relations, politics and all public affairs.
In 1901, Washington published his autobiography, Up From Slavery. It is a classic success story containing Washington's program of accommodation and self-help. Up