Du Bois were the two strongest African American leaders in the late 1800's. Although both were trying to advance African American Society, their differing origins, and their opposite philosophies led them to be rivals. Washington believed in a more gradual approach to black equality, while Du Bois proposed a more immediate one. While Washington's approach to African American advancement seems in retrospect to be more practical, Du Bois had more success as a leader, and is considered to be the best-known and most prominent black leader of the first half of the 20th century.
Booker T. Washington was a graduate of the Hampton Institute in Virginia, and later founded the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1881. He told students under him to temporarily put aside their desire for political equality and instead focus on economic security. He taught them vocational skills, and urged them to prepare for productive, profitable work and to bring their intellect into all aspects into their daily lives, and to not exceed the limits imposed upon them by the societies they resided in. He believed the blacks could eventually earn white acceptance once they succeeded economically.
Washington was born into slavery, which accounts for his humble approach to black equality. Washington not only received the acceptance of blacks during his time (as most of them came from humble origins themselves, and could not perceive an immediate change in white prejudice), but a large proportion of whites, who were concerned about an increased demand for equality by educate African Americans. His sociopolitical philosophy gave him such a rise to prominence that President Theodore Roosevelt invited him to the White House in 1901. Whites began to consult him on racial concerns, and over time he became a dominant force in the black community.
W.E.B. Du Bois was a man of different origins than Washington. He received his education from Tennessee's Fisk University, and later was the first black to receive a Ph.