Booker T. Washington delivered the “1895 Atlanta Compromise Speech” at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta in front of a predominately white audience. Washington, who was born a slave in Virginia, went on to work as a child in the salt furnaces and coalmines of West Virginia. He was determined to receive an education where he later traveled to the Hampton Institute. Booker T. Washington would later become one of the most influential African-Americans between 1890 and 1915. His resume included educator, author, orator, advisor to Republican Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. He also founded the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute.
The Atlanta Compromise addressed Washington’s acceptance of social segregation as long as African-Americans were given the opportunity to advance economically and professionally. He attempted to coax his audience and the white population as a whole with his explicit message “cast down your bucket where you are.” Meaning to put trust in the same African-Americans that were loyal to care after their masters families and till their farms, to be able to contribute in areas such as agriculture, mechanics, and commerce to name a few.
Washington, being a former slave and working his way upward knew first hand the importance of African-Americans receiving an education but he also knew how manual labor played a major role in the South. He believed that “No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem”. Although the idea of an African-American presenting at the Exposition was not warmly accepted among white southerners, they believed having a Black speaker would impress their Northern visitors; attempting to portray that the South was making racial progress.
The language of Booker T. Washington’s speech was constructed as if a white man had written it. In the past African-Americans were not looked at as being...
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