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EA Black Groups Change: Web Dubois and Plessy Versus Ferguson Case

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Throughout black people’s progression over 100 years, black groups played vital roles in order to achieve justice needed for their causes; some consisted of individuals with communities backing their ideas, such as Booker T Washington and his ‘respect earned for equality’ mandate, then later transforming into huge mass movements calling on the government for intervention for equal rights, namely Martin Luther’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SSLC) and Congress Of Racial Equality (CORE). In order to gain the inclusion that they desired, black groups ideas and mandates changed over the decades, reflecting the needs for the time that they were presented with. Starting from within the reconstruction era, with Booker T Washington and W.E.B Du Bois first spreading their grievances and the solutions they thought would enable black progression sueing the turbulant times they faced, with black people being free from slavery but withheld basic resepct under Jim Crow laws tormenting the south. Historians ‘Gardner Booker T’ and ‘Pero Dagbovi’ both commented on Booker T Washington’s ideas, Gardner commending Washington’s successes of the Alabama Institute and his moral ideas of earning respect from white counterparts, whereas Dagbovi opposed, signalling that respect didn’t need to be ‘earned’ based on ones skin colour. Once the ideas were established of how to go about progression, these groups grew into proper organisations like the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) in order to actively change their situation, and used their status after 1930 within the legal framework of America. After gaining more through legality, such as the Plessy v Ferguson case, black groups moved into movements on great scales, mobilizing hundreds of people to protest for stronger equality throughout the 1950s and 60’s looking for a cultural change in America, some through peaceful protesting and others through defence and intimidation, such as the Black Panthers. Gaining rights took decades for black groups, and they evolved according to the society in which they inhabited, from introducing opposition in 1870 to Jim Crow laws through the spreading of ideas and raising awareness of inequalities, adapting eventually in 1960 by mobilising thousands of people who demanded change after over 100 years of oppression. (360)

The Jim Crow era established the way in which the course of American history regarding Black people’s civil rights vastly opened doors to evoke discussion among different communities and cultures from Ghettos to white liberals on the important issues that would be fought for in years to come. During this time of history, after the failed attempt of reconstruction, segregation soured through the south and led the way to the diminishment of any ‘fair’ laws passed in the era of reconstruction. In the early 19th century two men dominated the discussion; W.E.B Du Bois and Booker T Washington. Both strong men believed in the advancement of African Americans into American society, but the course in which they thought was to be taken was significantly different, and it was this debate that formed the basis for the discussions years later.

Booker T Washington established his position in southern society through his beliefs that black people did not need to fight for rights or freedoms and instead passively allow segregation and disenfranchisement, in exchange for basic education and economic opportunities. Du Bois on the other hand opposed this method greatly, being a firm believer in actively fighting for better opportunities and not suppressing to white rule. The ways in which the different methods were expected to be executed differed too, with Booker T developing the Tuskegee institute and Du Bois setting up the Niagara movement. The Tuskegee Institute was founded on the basis that in order for African Americans to gain respect from white people, they needed to earn it. Training in agriculture and industry was given specifically to advance economic progress; this, in Booker T’s eyes, therefore enabled white people to see that African Americans were not as intellectually inferior as once thought and thus be accepted into wider society, not to be forced; ‘that progress in the enjoyment of all the privileges that will come to us must be the result of severe and constant struggle rather than of artificial forcing.’ Often he also used himself as an example of a Black man who ‘gained’ respect and acceptance into wider society, such as his closeness to Theoadore Roosevelt. Though his closeness to President Roosevelt and the ‘respect’ Washington received could be argued, as no matter how polite and courteous or how wealthy a black man was, they were always viewed as inferior to their ‘superiors’. In any respect, Washington gained a national reputation as a ‘reasonable’ black man, and he encouraged students within the Tuskegee institute to mirror his reasonability in order to gain merit. Washington also broke ground with his efforts on The Atlanta Compromise, a speech declaring that the Reconstruction era was too drastic in its changes and that racial cooperation would be the only benefit. He believed that social segregation and submitting to white rule in exchange for basic education and economic advances was the way forward to achieve cooperation. The speech was a success in the Southern Whites’ eyes and he was applauded for his passivity.

Washington’s idea of separate but equal convention towards black rights can be seen being supported elsewhere, particularly in 1896, the Supreme Court’s ruling of ‘Plessy vs Ferguson’. This was the first major case looking into the meaning of the 14th Amendment, whereby all states must comply with equal protection under all the law. The ruling allowed under the constitution for racial segregation and for public places to have separate but allegedly equal facilities. Paving the way for racial segregation for years to come, Washingtons seperate but equal docterine played a huge role in Americas history towards segregated civil rights, and was a huge factor in later fights for equal civil rights without segregation.

Opposingly, despite his early agreement towards Washington, Du Bois started to disapprove of his beliefs to live passively to segregation and called for full political, civil and social rights for African Americans. Du Bois was openly against The Atlanta compromise and believed that their society should engage in active civil rights and not passively submit under white rule. Du Bois was quoted saying that ‘one could not be a calm, cool, and detached scientist while Negroes were lynched, murdered, and starved’. Du Bois realized that ‘the cure wasn’t simply telling people the truth, it was inducing them to act on the truth’. This next act would be known as the Niagara Movement, an organization that would be known as the predecessor of the NAACP. The Niagara movement made up many scholars that, like Du Bois, believed that change could only be made with a more thorough and aggressive stance to fight against racism, and that Washington’s advancements towards equality were slow moving and ineffective. The Niagara movement focused on the refusal to allow African Americans to be seen as inferior and submissive. Though short lived, this movement paved the way for ideas other than Washington’s, and eventually led to the nationally recognized group NAACP, that allowed black and white members against racism to join.

Historians; Booker T Gardner wrote in support of Washington’s efforts of uplifting African American men through education, ‘Washington ranks the most influential leaders of American education… He founded the Institute at Alabama.’ Washington’s work on the Institute was due to the basis of his outlook on African Americans standing and how they should go about gaining equal rights. Gardner praises Washington in his education style, ‘Tuskegee became an outstanding education institution in the fields of industrial and household arts, agriculture…etc’ whereby he saw education as a tool to gain respect from the white population in order to achieve equality. Education in Washington’s era when the Tuskegee was set up in 1881 for African Americans was hugely lacking, for males and even worse females, therefore the Tuskegee Institute was groundbreaking in allowing people of colour to learn in a safe environment without the bias that they would if they ever got the opportunity, which was unlikely, to go to a white school.

Pero Gaglo Dagbovie on the other hand instead supports protest, ‘celebrating folks who refused to go along and get along, refused to smile and take the payola that Washington was offering’; here we can see that Dagbovie is celebrating protesting against unfair and unequal societal expectations of the early 1900’s and refused to celebrate Washington’s subjection to White rule. He specifically references how the ‘Niagara Movement’ was the beginning of protest, meaning that Dagbovie supports Du Bois, opposition of Washington and founder of the movement. Dagbovie supports those that refused to be subjected to the idea that black men needed to gain respect for their white counterparts and instead protest for fairer equality.

Gardner wrote his praise for Washington in 1975, just a mere few years after full emancipation for African Americans, therefore his accounts of Tuskegee and its impacts may have been in verbal circulation in society at the time. His account could well be the reflection of admiration around Washington’s efforts in contribution to educating young black men before anyone else did. Dagbovies accounts were written in 2007, with benefits of hindsight on his side. Dagbovie had much better access to researching both Washington and Du Bois with the help of the internet, more research material and other uncovered sources that were found after Gardners 1975. Dagbovies hindsight will have allowed him to look at civil rights from a bigger perspective and get a more well rounded conclusion without bias from verbal accounts.

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The fight between DuBois and Washington and their arguments dominated the time period in which they stood, stirring ideas and shifting political boundaries. Both men and their supporters were two opposing black groups; no matter how different each argument was, they were both extremely important for the beginnings of civil rights, as they were challenging the status quo and providing people with opportunities to discuss how to achieve equality. (1305)

Due to the efforts of Du Bois and Washington in raising the important issues and discussions needed towards race, the new era in black groups was transformed from the small Niagara movement to the interacial civil right group the NAACP. The springfield riots of 1908 acted as a catalyst and a last straw for many people within Illanois and beyond. The forming of the NAACP was due to white liberals such as Mary White Ovington being appalled by lynching, paticularily during the springfeild riots, so they sought out prominant Americans that included W.E.B. Du Bois to form their own civil rights organization. Little did they know that this organization would fight, and win, many legal battles in the future that made huge leaps towards the civil rights movement. Throughout its years the NAACP focused on different areas for change, such as antilynching legislation, education and participation in voting. The NAACP’s first victory was Guin vs states against the ‘grandfather clause’. This clause allowed illiterate white men to vote if their grandfathers had the right years before, whilst black people who did not have a father eligible to vote in 1866 had to take a literacy test. Due to African Americans’ positions in 1833, very few black men were allowed to vote, therefore hindering most black Americans’ chances of voting in 1908. This hindrance was known nationally and caused the NAACP to spring into action against the unfair clause and to set it right. This legal battle, whereby the Supreme court ruled the clause to be unconstitutional against the 15th Amendment, helped the NAACP establish legal advocacy and increased their status among growing numbers of activists. Another battle in the NAACPs early history was the boycotting of ‘A Birth of a Nation’ which positively looked at the Ku Klux Klan and followed racial stereotypes. Although this boycott did not take off, it again helped increase their status nationally. Many more legal battles followed, and membership grew significantly, from 9,000 in 1917 to 90,000 in 1919, fighting the battle ground within the legal system to eliminate racial prejudice.

Next, the NAACP battleground focused on their antilynching campaign. In 1916 a committee was founded for antilynching legislation in particular and in 1917 the first mass demonstration for African American equality was organised by the NAACP in New York, where 10,000 people attended to silently protest against antilynching. By 1918, the group helped persuade President Woodrow Wilson to condemn lynching.

But it was not until after 1940 that the NAACPs role was most pivotal; during the civil flights era. The NAACPs most famous legal battle would have to be the landmark ‘Brown vs Board of education of topeka’, outlawing segregation in schools, but it also allowed wider context in reference to segregation in all settings. Overturning the Plessy vs Ferguson ruling of separate but equal, Thurgood Marshall, a lawyer for the NAACP, sought to disallow segregation in schools, arguing segregation violated the 14th Amendment. Many cases throughout the country regarding the same questions of segregation in education were brought up nationally, and eventually they were combined. Linda Brown’s case was at the forefront of the list, being denied entry, like many, from schools nearby and was forced to travel miles away to predominantly black schools. Thurgood Marshall argued that the separate but equal schools were not actually equal, with white schools facilities being of much better quality than separate and ‘equal’ black schools. The supreme court was deeply divided, but eventually ruled that ‘separate educational facilities are inherently unequal’ and that the black students were deprived of the equal protections of the law of the 14th. Unsurprisingly this court ruling helped chip away at racism in society by exacting integration within schools and it inspired the marches that happened soon after calling for outlawing all segregation. (if needed more wordcount talk about another famous case here)

The black group of the NAACP played a remarkable role in the civil rights movement, using the institutions of America and calling on the constitution to call for equal rights. Unlike their previous groups of Dubois and Washington whereby making discussion about equality was the goal, the NAACP was the change America needed to progress, by using the legal systems in place to further black rights. (713)

After the 1950s the civil rights movement started to become bigger, and the groups that composed this time period and into the 1960s focused on mass movements, boycotts and primarily active action in order to stand up for rights. Groups that were banded together during this time were very different but all had priorities in using the power of the people in order to bring about change. Groups such as Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and Martin Luther King’s Southern Cristian Leadership Conference (SCLC) approached the civil rights movement with words, following the steps of Gandhi with his non-violence and love. Both groups organised and participated in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, attempting to desegregate busses and other public spaces such as waiting rooms in a non violent way. The bus boycott lasted over a year, and had large backlashes for black people across Montgomery- violent attacks increased and the all loving approach that both CORE and King adopted was more crucial than ever. The Supreme Court ruled that the segregation on buses was unconstitutional in 1556, proving to doubtful onlookers that the nonviolence approach could work.

Opposingly to CORE and SSLC, a group named the black panthers approached gaining equality in a much different way, a huge change in direction from the peaceful protesting of Martin Luther King. The Black Panther party was originally made for self-defense, and later transformed into a party that oversaw the treatment of how black peoples negative interactions with police and sought to stop any mistreatment. Although quite a minority group with at its height just over 2000 members, The Black Panthers impact ripples throughout America’s states and their reputation was echoed far and wide. The group’s reputation across America, particularly in White communities was that of fear; often portrayed as a gang, many people saw the Black Panthers for their controversies, namely the interactions of violence with the police. An example of this is the founder of the Black Panthers Huey Newton being convicted of manslaughter and sentenced for 15 years in prison for the murder of a police officer. The Black Panthers aggressive way of protest and the assertiveness to their methods scared many white people and caused the media to demonize the group in many cases. Some of this demonization of the group due to their controversial violent tactics approach to protest is still seen today.

The juxtaposition of both the peaceful protesting groups of the 50’s and 60’s combined with the persistence for aggression by the Black Panthers gave the participants of the civil rights movement the freedom to choose which route they believed to be the best form of protest to enable civil rights and it shows clearly the change in which protest had converted even within the same time period. Movements and protesting show clearly the change from 1860s America, whereby protest to inequality was only presented within ideas and discussion to figure out the path for later civil rights, compared to the mass movements and demands for government intervention.

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EA Black Groups Change: Web Dubois and Plessy Versus Ferguson Case. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 2, 2023, from
“EA Black Groups Change: Web Dubois and Plessy Versus Ferguson Case.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
EA Black Groups Change: Web Dubois and Plessy Versus Ferguson Case. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 2 Feb. 2023].
EA Black Groups Change: Web Dubois and Plessy Versus Ferguson Case [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2023 Feb 2]. Available from:
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