Note to the reader: Although this is a two-sided compromise speech, the book merely states the viewpoints and issues brought forth by the opponent. Please, keep an open mind and remember, there are always to sides to this issue.

Background Information: This is the speech that put a seal onto what was going on in the struggle for racial equality at this time. The Jim Crow laws were being passed at this time. These laws stated thath blacks and whites must be educated separately.. Black people can only hold certain kinds of jobs. This was a system of laws, rules, and customs that would dominate the South for the next 70 years. We still live with some of the effects today. After the Civil War, Reconstruction allowed for black people the right to vote, to be involved in more educational programs, and a series of laws and interventions which would help the black man. This is very much like what reoccured in the 1960's. However, the North lost interest in what was going on in the South.

This speech really helped because it was a black man talking. Northerners believed that if blacks wanted to fight for their rights, they would have to have someone of their race enter into the debates.

Booker T. Washington was a "white manís black man". That is, he was always more popular among whites than his own people. He is much similar to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who is very popular with the Republicans.

The Speech


Time and Place: The Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, GA, September 18,1895.

Speaker: Booker T. Washington

"When we were first freed we wanted to get into Congress rather than build a farm."

Washington's focus is going to be economics. The black people will give their aspirations to be in Congress. These laws eventually drove blacks out of positions of power by making it difficult to register to vote. By not having the right to vote, the blacks were being stopped form having economic progress. This is just like the Seneca Falls Declaration.

Washington delivers in the second and third paragraphs a famous illustration:

". . .cast down your buckets where you are."

Where are you going to find progress? You can not find it in the North, and you are not going to find progress by moving to a different country. Here, Washington was refering to Liberia, a country set aside for backs to move after they were freed. He is that we must develop good relationships with with neighbors.

"No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem."

Washington is saying give up on getting a good education. Why would you need to waste time teaching a black man to read and write except at the most rudimentary level? This is support for segregation in education, except in higher institutions of learning, where Washington believes there is no place for the black man.

Next, Washington turns his attention to whites and says cast down your buckets. The black people are your labor pool. In the North, citizens were importing people from other countries who did not know the language. These immigrants have to be taught the language, customs, and how to work in the American economy. In the South however, there was a great labor pool just waiting to work. Washington insisted that the black race look to the white race, and that the white race look to the black race.

In paragraph 8, Washington talks about beng separate socially but united economically. This is an example of him putting s stamp of approval on segregation.

The illustration of the hand is widely quoted. Basically, Washington is saying that blacks are going to accept a secondary citizenship. Blacks will continue to serve the white race in a different form. They will not be slaves, however, they will be a second class citizen. This idea was much more popular in the circle of whites who were trying to pass Jim Crow laws, than in the circle of blacks who were trying to oppose these laws.

In paragraph 11, Washington talks about the agitators. These were people from the North coming down to the South agitate the situation. This was one of the biggest complaints of the South. If blacks did not have people agitating the situation, they could go on doing things the way they have always been done. Gradualism is the idea that people will eventually get along by gradually working their own way up with their own efforts. We do not need to be opposed.