Letter from Booker T. Washington to J. R. Barlow (1911)

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My dear Mr. Barlow: Thank you again for your kind letter of January [February] 9th.

I am glad that you received the papers and the picture. I shall be interested to hear from you after you have talked matters over with our mutual friend, Mr. Harris.

As to the suggestion which you made for the land scheme, I am going to talk the whole matter over with Mr. Logan and by the time you have had a counsel with Mr. Harris and we can hear from you again, I think we may have reached some more definite conclusion.

I note what you say regarding Mr. Du Bois. He and I do not agree on most matters regarding the course to pursue in reference to our race in this country. In the first place, I do not think Dr. Du Bois understands conditions in the South. He was born in New England and has never been in the South among the rank and file of Southern white people and Southern colored people long enough to really understand conditions and to get hold of a true point of view. At present, he is living in New York and comes in little contact with the real problems of the South, but the most fundamental differences between us is in the following direction: I believe that the Negro race is making progress. I believe that it is better for the race to emphasize its opportunities than to lay over–much stress on its disadvantages. He believes that the Negro race is making little progress. I believe that we should cultivate an ever manly, straightforward manner and friendly relations between white people and black people. Dr. Du Bois pursues the policy of stirring up strife between white people and black people. This would not be so bad, if after stirring up strife between white people and black people, he would live in the South and be brave enough to face conditions which his unwise course has helped to bring about; but instead of doing that, he flees to the North and leaves the rank and file of colored people in the South no better off because of the unwise course which he and others like him have pursued.

We are making progress as a race–tremendous progress–and I believe it is better to hold up before the colored people the fact that they are making progress than to continually hold up a picture of gloom and despair before them.

I say all this fully conscious of the wrongs suffered by my race. I say all this not with the idea of in any degree limiting or circumscribing the progress or growth of the race in any direction, but I want to lay a sure foundation for progress. In a word, the great weakness, in my opinion, of Dr. Du Bois’ position is that he fails to recognize the fact that it is a work of construction that is before us now and not a work of destruction. Mr. Garrison and his followers had to destroy a great evil. Those of us who are now at work have got to build up the physical education and moral resources of the South and besides, have got to cement friendly relations between black people and white people, rather than tear the two races asunder.

Enclosed, please find receipt for the amount you sent to pay for the papers. Your very truly,

Booker T. Washington

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