Two Sides of the Same Coin— Booker T. Washington vs. W.E.B. DuBois on Education

In the years following Reconstruction, two different viewpoints emerged regarding the education of African-Americans. The first, represented by Booker T. Washington, was that African-Americans needed to gain commercially viable skills and focus on being tradesmen and craftsmen. The second, represented by W.E.B. DuBois, was that African-Americans needed to focus on giving the most talented in their communities a classic liberal arts education, so that these most talented could improve life for AfricanAmericans as a whole. This lesson plan explores these differences, and will give students a sense of how these differences shaped education for AfricanAmericans.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze how an author...
Analyze what a text says explicitly and draw inferences; support an interpretation of a text by citing and synthesizing relevant textual evidence from...
Initiate and participate effectively with varied partners in a range of collaborative discussions on appropriate 11th - 12th grade topics, texts, and...
Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective so that listeners can follow the line of reasoning;...
With prompting and support, orally identify characters, setting, and major events in a story.
Using textual evidence, compare and contrast the ideas and philosophies of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois.
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Learning objectives: 
  • Students will identify, describe, and explain the goals and impacts of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois with regards to post Reconstruction African-American education;
  • Students will annotate, analyze, and compare andcontrast excerpts from Washington’s “Atlanta Exposition” speech and DuBois’ “Talented Tenth” essay;
  • Students will create commentary on both excerpts as if covering them live. 
Essential and guiding questions: 

How did the competing educational philosophies of DuBois and Washington address the needs of AfricanAmericans during the Jim Crow period? 

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Extension suggestions: 
  • Have students compare and contrast the merits of liberal arts education versus the merits of vocational education. This can be done through  variety of activities, such as creative activities (speeches, art, campaigns, etc.) and writings (research papers, journal entries, short essays, etc.), and can add a modern twist on this lesson.
  • Have students engage in the same activity as the lesson plan (annotate & analyze, Twitter activity) with excerpts from W.E.B. DuBois’s The Souls of Black Folk.

Helpful Hints


  • PowerPoint: Washington v. DuBois
  • Atlanta Exposition excerpt worksheet
  • The Talented Tenth excerpt worksheet
  • Analysis Questions
  • Twitter worksheet
  • Compare/Contrast worksheet