[Back to the Unit Eight Summary]
Booker T. Washington, "Atlanta Exposition Address," (1895)

Booker T. Washington was an educator and leading black intellectual of the late 19th and early 20th century. He founded the Tuskegee Institute a black school in Alabama devoted to industrial and moral education.  In response to the rise of Jim Crow, Washington advocated accommodation, ignoring social and political inequalities while training blacks in the industrial arts so as to promote black economic progress.  Washington delivered the following speech ­ sometimes called the Atlanta Compromise ­ before a white audience at the Atlanta Exposition in 1895.

As you read, consider Washingtonís strategy for blacks and why Washington thought it would be successful.  In what sense did Washingtonís views reflect the values of the Gilded Age? Compare Washingtonís strategy to that of DuBois in the following document.

A ship lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel.  From the mast of the unfortunate vessel was seen a signal, "Water, water; we die of thirst!"  The answer from the friendly vessel at once came back, "Cast down your bucket where you are."  A second time the signal, "Water, water; send us water!" ran up from the distressed vessel, and was answered, "Cast down your bucket where you are."... The captain of the distressed vessel, at last heeding the injunction, cast down his bucket, and it came up full of fresh, sparkling water....  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, who is their next-door neighbor, 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.

Cast it down in agriculture, mechanics, in commerce, in domestic service, and in the professions.  And... it is well to bear in mind that whatever other sins the South may be called to bear, when it comes to business, pure and simple, it is in the South that Negro is given a manís chance in the commercial world.... Our greatest danger is that in the great leap from slavery to freedom we may overlook the fact that the masses of us are to live by the productions of our hands, and fail to keep in mind that we shall prosper in proportion as we learn to dignify and glorify common labour and put brains and skill into the common occupations of life; shall prosper in proportion as we learn to draw the line between... the ornamental... and the useful.  No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem.  It is at the bottom of life that we must begin, and not at the top.  Nor should we permit our grievances to overshadow our opportunities.

To those of the white race... I would repeat what I say to my own race, "Cast down your bucket where you are."  Cast it down among the eight millions of Negroes whose habits you know, whose fidelity and love you have tested in days when to have proved treacherous meant the ruin of your firesides.  Cast down your bucket among these people who have, without strikes and labor wars, tilled your fields, cleared your forests, builded your railroads and cities....  Casting down your bucket among my people, helping and encouraging them as you are doing on these grounds, and to education of head, hand, and heart, you will find that they will buy your surplus land, make blossom the waste places in your fields, and run your factories.  While doing this, you can be sure... that you and your families will be surrounded by the most patient, faithful, law-abiding, and unresentful people that the world has seen.  As we have proved our loyalty to you in the past, in nursing your children, watching the sick-bed of your mothers and fathers... so in the future, in our humble way, we shall stand by you with a devotion that no foreigner can approach, ready to lay down our lives, if need be, in defense of yours, interlacing our industrial, commercial, civil, and religious lives with yours in a way that shall make the interests of both races one.  In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the  hand in all things essential to mutual progress....

The wisest among my race understand that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremist folly, and that progress in the enjoyment of all the privileges that will come to us must be the result of severe and constant struggle rather that artificial forcing.  No race that has anything to contribute to the markets of the world is long in any degree ostracized.  It is important and right that all privileges of the law be ours, but it is vastly more important that we be prepared for the exercises of these privileges.  That opportunity to earn a dollar in a factory just now is worth infinitely more than the opportunity to spend a dollar in an opera house....

I pledge that in your effort to work out the great and intricate problem which God has laid at the doors of the South, you shall have at all times the patient, sympathetic help of my race.... Let us pray a God, will come, in a blotting out of sectional differences and racial animosities and suspicions, in
a determination to administer absolute justice, in a willing obedience among all classes to the mandates of law.   This, this, coupled with our material prosperity, will bring into our beloved South a new heaven and new earth....

[Back to the Unit Eight Summary]