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Analysis of Booker T. Washington’s Atlanta Compromise Speech

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Table of contents

  1. Authorship
  2. Summary and Analysis
  3. Conclusion


Booker T. Washington, he was born in 1856, and lived until 1915. Unlike Carnegie, Booker only made it to age 59. “Booker was born a slave in Virginia and he was educated at Hampton Institute”. This institute taught Washington skills rather than educational studies. In 1881, Booker created the same school but in Alabama, which was called the Tuskegee Institute. In 1895, he was invited to deliver a speech at the Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta, which was later on called “The Atlanta Compromise Speech” by journalists.

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This was a speech in which he remarked that he condoned social segregation.

No specific audience was clarified, but everyone at the expo and since it was on television, the audience was mostly African Americans because he’s giving his opinion about the segregation and they would want to hear what he has to say.

Booker T. Washington argued that the blacks and whites should support each other because in the future, they would need one another. Washington states “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 the proportion as we learn to dignify and glorify common labor”. Washington is claiming that the whites and blacks our doing the same jobs, the same way, so why can’t they join each other and work together. Washington wants to bring unity between the two races.

Summary and Analysis

Booker is describing how education from the whites can help the blacks do their jobs for them. He states, “helping and encouraging them as you are doing on these grounds, and, with education of head, hand and heart, you will find that they will buy your surplus of land”. One must remember, Washington went to vocational school which teaches labor skills rather than education. With the statement above, Washington is asking help from the whites so that they can help blacks with education in labor skills. He thinks that those kinds of skills are more important than educational skills.

Washington claims that “the political convention or stump speaking had more attractions than starting a dairy farm or truck garden”. He is implying that being at a political convention was “better” than starting your own business to people who value education. Washington would rather start a dairy farm or a truck garden with the skills he learned in vocational school. This is what he wants his fellow African Americans to realize. They should be learning how to work with their hands, and the only way is if the whites help them learn. What is in it for the whites? Why would they just help African Americans when most of them don’t get along with them and would rather have them work in their fields? Washington gives them an incentive, he claims “they will run your factories”. He wants the whites to help the African Americans so that when the time comes, they will be ready to run the factories for them and handle their labor for them.

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Even though Washington thought he was helping the African American community, many black intellects did not like the speech at all. They thought it was aiming mostly towards the southern whites because it technically was. Washington spoke on the whole entire race and decided that education to blacks would be worth it for them to labor under the whites. Many African Americans too offensive to this speech. While they took offense to it, the whites loved it. They get new labors that will run their businesses for as little as education. As long as the whites would help African Americans with their skills, African Americans would help the whites with their businesses.

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