By 1905 two African American leaders dominated the debate over the best course for racial advancement in America. Booker T. Washington became the best-known spokesman following the death of Frederick Douglass in 1895. Foremost among those who rose to challenge Washington was W. E. B. Du Bois, who had a different plan. The two men became arch-rivals. Washington even hired spies to keep an eye on Du Bois.
Booker T. Washington did not think that social equality of the races was as important as economic equality. He said:
"The wisest among my race understand that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremest folly, and that progress in the enjoyment of all the privileges that will come to us must be the result of severe and constant struggle rather than of artificial forcing."
Du Bois later called Washington's Atlanta Exposition Address the "Atlanta Compromise," because it compromised social equality of the races in order to gain economic equality, But at the time, Du Bois wrote to Washington and said of the Atlanta Address:
"My Dear Mr. Washington: Let me heartily congratulate you upon your phenomenal success in Atlanta -- it was a word fitly spoken."