Washington agreed with the Supreme Courts decision in the case Plessy v. Ferguson. That is, he concurred that blacks should not pursue higher education; instead, they should attend vocational schools. Additionally, Washington also backed the decision to keep blacks out of political power, and, furthermore, that they accept themselves as members of a lower social standing.
Du Bois, like thousands of others, was incensed by both the Court's decision and Washington's kowtowing. Du Bois began advocating for the right to higher education, political power, and equality.