The era of Jim Crow segregation will forever be linked with racial discrimination and the push for civil rights following Reconstruction. The two most influential black men of the time, Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois, were also two of the most polarizing forces within the black community. Both men strived for racial equality in the eyes of the law, but they employed contrasting strategies in order to combat the dire political and economic situation African Americans found themselves trying to escape.
With his leadership skills and political cache, Booker T. Washington was the most famous African American leading the black charge into the 20th Century. His power increased with his economic and political ties through the Tuskegee Institute and his relations with Presidents Roosevelt and Taft, both of whom were racially prejudiced. Mr. Washington believed that blacks should accept their subjugated citizenship for the time being instead of agitating the white population. In his mind, if blacks could earn a dollar through industrial education they would be much better off than fighting the latent power of white society.
On the other end of the spectrum, Harvard educated W.E.B. DuBois took the intellectual path to the racial struggle. His theory held that blacks should never accept a lower position in society just because that was the way things were. Through his writings and organizing tactics, DuBois rallied the intelligentsia, The Talented 10th, in order to raise black consciousness above the perceived blind acceptance of Booker T. Washington. DuBois was severely opposed to racial segregation in both politics and economics whereas Washington supported an agenda based on the separation of the races.