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On the Social Significance of W.E.B. Du Bois' "The Social Significance of Booker T. Washington" Open Access

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Du Bois left the NAACP in 1934 during one of the most intense controversies of his career. The black press and many within the NAACP were critical of the economic Black Nationalism he had recently endorsed as it included positive views towards some aspects of segregation. Du Bois' newly endorsed policies sounded very similar to that of Booker T. Washington's, and though Washington had been dead for nearly 20 years, their complicated relationship still divided the African-American community. Du Bois would accept a faculty position at Atlanta University, but the controversy that surrounded him would make his job security tenuous in a perpetually underfunded university subject to political whims in the midst of the Great Depression. Critics generally agree that this time period saw Du Bois warming towards Washington, but there is little archival evidence to back this claim up. In 1935, however, Du Bois wrote, but did not publish, an essay titled "The Social Significance of Booker T. Washington" that has gone completely unnoticed in the archives at least partially because it was catalogued as being written "circa 1920." "Significance" provides canon-worthy detail on Du Bois' evolving public relationship with Washington, and both supports and complicates the notion that Du Bois was warming towards Washington in 1935. As one of the few edited-but-unpublished Du Bois documents remaining in the archives, "Significance" also provides a peculiar commentary on the challenges Du Bois faced during this complicated period of his life.

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