DuBois's expressed admiration of Washington's accomplishments is barbed; for, he describes Washington's ability "[t]o gain the sympathy and coöperation of the various elements comprising the white South" as part of a "singleness of vision" and "oneness with his age." Indeed, Washington was very focused on his ambition to build Tuskegee University with funds from white philanthropists and was intent on putting Southern whites at ease by advocating for segregation, so that he could accomplish his own aims without disruption.
However, that "singleness of vision" is also DuBois's problem with Washington. This vision, which concerned itself mostly with "financial and social stress," curbed the humanitarian vision for black progress. DuBois uses the examples of Nat Turner and Denmark Vesey to remind the reader of the tradition of resistance in black history, even when black people were subjugated under slavery. DuBois explicitly criticizes Washington on this point, as follows: "Mr. Washington represents in Negro thought the old attitude of adjustment and submission." However, to DuBois, Washington promotes this "at such a peculiar time." It was the Progressive Era and, thus, a time of both economic development as well as one in which black people had a somewhat sympathetic president in Theodore Roosevelt, who invited Washington to the White House.
DuBois specifically outlines what Washington asks black people to relinquish in favor of "industrial education, the accumulation of wealth, and the conciliation of the South":
First, political power,
Second, insistence on civil rights,
Third, higher education of Negro youth.
For DuBois, these needs could not be compromised. He disliked what he perceived as Washington's philistinism, or favor for material gain above all else. Also, DuBois strongly valued liberal-arts education and disliked Washington's single-minded insistence on black people learning trades in manufacturing and agriculture.