Booker T. Washington Delivers His "Atlanta Compromise" Speech
On September 18, 1895, Booker T. Washington delivered his famous "Atlanta Compromise" speech at the opening of the Cotton States and International Exhibition in Atlanta, Georgia.
Washington, the founder and president of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, was the first African-American man ever to address a racially-mixed Southern audience. He used the occasion to advocate a moderate approach to race relations in the New South
Weary of the violence and turbulence that attended Reconstruction in the South, Washington's philosophy of self-help, political gradualism, and accommodation to the ideology of race appealed to most white and many black Americans.
Booker Taliaferro Washington (April 5, 1856 – November 14, 1915) was an American educator, orator, author and the dominant leader of the African-American community nationwide from the 1890s to his death. Born to slavery and freed by the Civil War in 1865, as a young man, became head of the new Tuskegee Institute, then a teachers' college for blacks. It became his base of operations. His "Atlanta Exposition" speech of 1895 appealed to middle class whites across the South, asking them to give blacks a chance to work and develop separately, while implicitly promising not to demand the vote. White leaders across the North, from politicians to industrialists, from philanthropists to churchmen, enthusiastically supported Washington, as did most middle class blacks. He built a personal organization that linked like-minded black leaders throughout the nation and in effect spoke for Black America, but it fell apart after his death. Meanwhile a more militant northern group, led by W. E. B. Du Bois rejected Washington's self-help and demanded recourse to politics, referring to the speech dismissively as "The Atlanta Compromise". The critics were marginalized until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, at which point more radical black leaders rejected Washington's philosophy and demanded federal civil rights laws.
To those of my race who depend on bettering their condition in a foreign land, or who underestimate the importance of cultivating friendly relations with the Southern white man, I would say: "Cast down your bucket where you are—cast it down in making friends in every manly way of the people of all races by whom we are surrounded."”— Address of Booker T. Washington