He differed from Washington early on because his background gave him a certain detachment from Black life, but he was influenced by the realities of Southern life after exposure to a lynching in Georgia in 1899. His views radicalized under the influence of William Monroe Trotter and other anti-Washington militants. It was in 1900 that he attended the Paris Exposition and declared that "the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line." Among his many writings, two from 1903 stand out for their defining of the differences between Washington and DuBois and for reflecting the growing radicalism of DuBois.
Written primarily for a white audience, The Souls of Black Folk reflects DuBois differences with Washingtons views on such issues as suffrage, civil rights and education. In commenting on Washingtons Atlanta speech of 1895, he noted that "The South interpreted it in many ways: the radicals received it as a complete surrender of the demand for civil and political equality; the conservatives, as a generously conceived working basis for mutual understanding.
So both approved it, and to-day its author is certainly the most distinguished Southerner since Jefferson Davis, and the one with the largest personal following." He felt Washington would sacrifice political power, civil rights and higher education, thereby resulting in disenfranchisement, legalized civil inferiority and the withdrawal of aid from institutions of higher learning. He commented that: