Changing leadership, in federal government and the black campaigners both helped and hindered in the quest for greater equality in society. They appealed to different groups of people in different social era's, campaigning both moderately and radically affecting change. Civil rights campaigners had to be passionate to influence the views of the president, and the president willing to set change in motion. .
Leadership persuades people with reason and moves them with emotion, producing conviction in their followers. Historians use their own criteria to interpret their own analysis with the benefit of hindsight. .
By 1870, Congress had freed slaves and introduced legislation to secure blacks rights of citizenship due to a change in the federal mood, and despite Johnson's pro-slavery stance, progress was limited because of a balancing act between northern push for reform and the southern fear of threatened livelihood. .
Booker T Washington 1856-1915 himself a former slave, challenged white opinion, by proving that African Americans deserved respect and equality. He advocated practical, economic and social improvements enabling legal reform and political advancement. He endorsed black self-help and pride teaching skills by which they could live, illustrated by his aims at the Hampton institute. His contemporary Du Bois's radical approach which aimed for equality socially and legally, revealed less than total support for Washington. He theorized that Washington's "industrial further learning" suppressed education, ironically thus "doing down" the civil rights cause. Throughout his life he believed that intelligence leads to power and the training of the talented tenth. .
Washington, born a slave, understood southern white traditions and fears, and aimed to reassure them shown in his 1895 "Atlanta Compromise" speech. His pragmatic nature made even social segregation acceptable to him. He said "It was foolish to agitate for social equality, that it would come through hard work, not force, as no-one of economic importance was ever ostracized for long".