First of all, we must be clear that not all African American progressives favored segregation. Some, like WEB Du Bois, wanted integration while others, like Booker T. Washington, favored segregation.
Those who favored segregation typically did so because they believed that it was the best way to improve the situation of African Americans. They believed that whites were not ready to accept integration and equal rights. Therefore, they wanted to remain segregated and improve their own community. They felt that they could do a better job of building a black community that would be relatively prosperous. Once this was accomplished, whites might be more likely to accept the idea of more equality and integration.
Booker T. Washington believed that African-Americans should focus on dealing with their economic needs before dealing with political issues such as segregation. Booker T. Washington believed that if African-Americans received an education, they would be able to become economically secure. Once that happened, African-Americans could deal with the lack of political rights they were facing. They also could then deal with issues such as segregation.
Not all African-American leaders agreed with Booker T. Washington. W.E. B. Du Bois believed that African-Americans should get all their rights now. They shouldn’t have to settle for just getting jobs and an education. They should be confronting the lack of political rights they faced as well as the segregation that existed. These people criticized Booker T. Washington because it appeared to them as if Booker T. Washington was accepting segregation and accepting having fewer rights than white people had.