Is Barack Obama The Ideological Heir of Booker T. Washington?

Adebayo Adeniran
6 min readDec 6, 2021

A critique of the failed president’s legacy.

Barack Obama via Wikimedia commons

African Americans are, without question, America’s conscience. They have a unique position that no other group in the United states has. This is largely due to the extraordinary circumstances of their arrival in the new world.

This line of thought is given powerful expression in W.E.B. Dubois’s magnum opus, the souls of black folk:

It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness, — an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled ; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife — this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He does not wish to Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He wouldn’t bleach his Negro blood in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face.

The likes of Nat Turner, Frederick Douglas, Martin Delaney, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King, James Baldwin, Jeremiah Wright and Cornel West are heirs to this great prophetic tradition, of holding America to account for its repeated failures in making good on its promises, for fighting unjust wars and for slaughtering its own citizens.

Booker T. Washington, on the other hand, despite his background (born into slavery), took a different position on the subject matter of race and how the interests of Black people were best served.

His position was of silence and submission on the question of civil rights for Black people. And it is also pertinent to point out that he was a vociferous advocate for conciliation of the defeated south to the Republic; a…

Adebayo Adeniran

A lifelong bibliophile, who seeks to unleash his energy on as many subjects as possible