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Structured Academic Debate: Booker T. Washington and W.E.B Dubois

The speeches, writings and accomplishments of Booker T. Washington’s and W.E.B. Du Bois encapsulated two very different approaches to racial advancement, race relations and education.  Within their arguments are controversies that continue today: Economic Prosperity vs. Political Rights, Vocational Education vs. Liberal Arts, Separatism vs. Integration, Patience vs. Action, Compromise vs. Full Demand.

Through the study of speeches, and other primary documents students will identify and understand the differing positions of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois on the following topics: Black Advancement, Race relations, and Education.  After teacher presents initial background information on Biography, Vocabulary and Concepts, students will work in teams engaging in a Structured Academic Controversy— engaging in collaborative discussion, building consensus and formulating their own viewpoints.  In a follow-up writing assignment students will express their own position in either a Persuasive Essay or a Synthesis Essay. 

Persuasive Essay 

PROMPT: At the turn of the twentieth century which leader’s position represented the best hope for Progress? Include their strategies for Black Advancement, plan for Education and approach to Race Relations in your essay.  

Synthesis Essay

PROMPT: If you could design a plan at the turn of the twentieth century, representing the best strategy for change, educational progress and race relations, what ideas from each leader’s speeches and writings would you include?  Which ideas do you feel are not conducive to progress? 

Resources For Lesson

Students will watch the 3-4 minute biographic videos snapshots of and BOOKER T. WASHINGTON and W.E.B. DU BOIS on  (Go to the that URL and enter each in the search bar.) These video snapshots are excellent entry points because they show archival photographs of the leaders in their era and because they also cover the key phrases and concepts associated with these leaders and this debate.  Students should copy down