The difference in strategies of African American leaders in the early twentieth century had to do with a difference in philosophies. Some, such as Booker T. Washington, advocated for an approach in which African Americans would eventually be fully welcomed into society by whites. He sought to do this with conciliatory measures to appease whites and prove African Americans' worth. He, and others like him, promoted education for African Americans which would lead to economic independence. They wanted to show white Americans that African Americans were just as intelligent and capable as them while not taking any extreme actions that might alarm white society.
Others, such as W.E.B. Du Bois, thought this strategy would lead nowhere. They thought it would take too long to achieve the type of justice and inclusion in society that they were after. They wanted to take direct and decisive action to fight for their civil rights. They felt that passively waiting for white people to bestow it upon them was a waste of time.
Clearly, these two approaches were contradictory. This led to periodic divisions within the civil rights movement during this period. Often the division fell along geographic lines. African Americans in the southern states were much warier of antagonizing white racists. Those in the North felt that there were more opportunities available to African Americans if they took them through decisive action.
In short, those in Booker T. Washington's camp believed that racial progress would come through incremental changes in which they were gradually accepted by white society. W.E.B. Du Bois and his followers felt that racial progress would involve decisive change by which African Americans were the agents of their own advancement.