ATLANTA COMPROMISE SPEECH, 1895
BOOKER T. WASHINGTON
The Atlanta compromise speech of Booker T Washington was read out on the 18th, September 1895 at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta.
Thirty years had passed since slavery was abolished in 1865 by the 13th amendment. But blacks still did not have the same rights as whites. Immediately after, the Southern states rushed to adopt black codes which we already saw in another presentation. They were the same as the slaves’ code but they used the word freed men in place of slaves.
This speech was written long after the Reconstruction, which went from 1867 to 1877. This was the only period until then where black people were treated as real citizens of the United States. But when the troops, which were supposed to protect the blacks’ freedom were taken away from the South, segregation came back as it was before, and blacks were not considered as citizens anymore.
For your information, the Cotton States and international Exposition was an exposition to promote the region to the world and showcase products and new technologies as well as encourage trade with Latin America. It also showed some achievements made by Afro-Americans; for example, the construction of a building made entirely by Black people.
Booker T Washington was born in 1865 as a slave. He fought for the integration of the African-American population. He was in favor of change but was not considered as a radical.
At the exposition, he spoke before a predominantly white audience about his desire to see pacific relations between blacks and whites. Although the organizers of the Exposition worried that public sentiment was not prepared for such an advanced step, they decided that inviting a black speaker would impress Northern visitors with the evidence of racial progress in the South. His “Atlanta Compromise” was one of the most important and influential speeches in American history.