The Hampton Idea

In his 1906 speech entitled “The Hampton Idea”, Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois spoke at Hampton University to persuade his audience not to seek industrial schooling and instead seek higher education, or the liberal arts.

Dr. Du Bois traveled and attended many Negro conferences to voice his opinion on the issue of liberal arts vs. technical schooling.  By the turn of the century, Dr. Du Bois’ rival on this issue, Booker T. Washington garnered major support for his side.  Mr. Washington thought that the best way to integrate into White America was through blacks staying to themselves, i.e. segregation and becoming educated to perform industrial jobs, which will always have an opening to be filled.  Dr. Du Bois thought that the best way to integrate into White America was the opposite.  Dr. Du Bois believed that blacks need to prove to both whites and themselves that they are equals and blacks should not limit themselves to labor work.  They should solve society’s problems, both philosophically and culturally.

In his speech, W.E.B. Du Bois focuses on the ethical issues (ethos) of attempting to have African-Americans focus solely on technical training.  Du Bois uses ethos to appeal to the audience that the credibility of vocational education is shoddy at best.  He attempts to promote liberal arts education as it will truly be the catalyst needed by the black community at Hampton.  Du Bois also attempts to use pathos to persuade his audiences, citing that only through a liberal arts education can a black person truly be able to live a good life, without having to struggle.  From a psychologist point of view, it would appear that Du Bois was attempting to have blacks focus their energy, a term Du Bois uses throughout his speech that he had observed within the black community to be lacking, on trying to make a living, not trying to earn a living. Instead of focusing on their needs, blacks should focus on their wants to have a fulfilling life, a life that, in which Du Bois purposefully attempt to persuade, blacks should be using to attempt to understand the meaning of stars, not the meaning of materials.

Du Bois’ elocutio (style) was instructive, due to his purpose of attempting to change Hampton’s mind on focusing on industrial training.  Du Bois employs deliberative rhetoric, attempting to attack the lack of forethought on the behalf of Hampton University’s as well as the community of Hampton’s logic (logos)  of attempting to stop young black males and females from reaching the stars and limiting them to brick-laying in order to just have a job.

Du Bois’ remarks about Hampton were not well received as he was not invited back to speak for 30 years, from 1906-1936.  However, despite Du Bois’ poor rating for his speech, by 1936, Du Bois remarked that Hampton had become a “college” and did not know what to do with its industrial equipment.  Overall, Du Bois’ speech was concise, appropriate for the occasion, as well as informative.



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