Langston Hughes (1902-1967), known for his lyric poetry, often wrote insightful commentaries about African-American culture and race relations in the United States. In this 1941 poem he makes a case for the vindication of educator Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), the former slave and founder of Tuskegee Institute (1881) and the National Negro Business League (1900) who was harshly criticized by many people for emphasizing vocational education as the prerequisite for the political empowerment of black people. In his poem, Hughes stresses the fact that Washington wanted to train the head, the heart, and the hand. He focuses on Washington’s practicality and explains the educator’s strategy with the statement,
“Sometimes he had
compromise in his talk–
for a man must crawl
before he can walk
and in Alabama in ’85
a joker was lucky
to be alive.
Taking into account the dividing ideologies of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B Du Bois,explain what ideology you agree with more, Washington or Du Bois? Do you agree or disagree with Langston Hughes’ assessment of Washington? Given the conditions of some black Americans in the 21st century, whose ideology should we be putting forth currently? Why or Why not?
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