The Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition Speech was an address on the topic of
race relationsgiven by black leader Booker T. Washingtonon September 18, 1895.
The title "Atlanta Compromise" was given to the speech by
Booker T. Washington, who believed it was insufficiently committed to the pursuit of social and political equality for Blacks. On the one hand, Washington warned white America of the consequences of ignoring racial abuse or "efforts to curtail the fullest growth of the Negro." He said that "we shall constitute one third of the ignorance and crime of the south or one-third of its intelligence and progress. One-third to the business and prosperity...or we shall prove a veritable body of death, stagnating, depressing, retarding every effort to advance the body politic." However, Washington also argued that "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 than of artificial forcing."
Presented before a predominantly white audience at the Cotton States and International Exposition (later the site of
Piedmont Park) in Atlanta, Georgia, the speech [ [http://www.africawithin.com/bios/booker/atlanta_compromise.htm Text of Atlanta Compromise Speech] ] has been recognized as one of the most important and influential speeches in American history. [cite web | title = Atlanta Compromise Speech | publisher = New Georgia Encyclopedia | url = http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-2554 | accessdate = 2007-06-08 ]
Washington began with a call to the blacks, who comprised one third of the Southern population, to join the world of work. He declared that the South was where blacks were given their chance, as opposed to the North, especially in the worlds of commerce and industry. He told the white audience that rather than rely on the immigrant population arriving at the rate of a million people a year, they should hire some of the nation's eight million blacks. He praised blacks' loyalty, fidelity and love in service to the white population, but warned that they could be a great burden on society if oppression continued, stating outright that the progress of the South was inherently tied to the treatment of blacks and protection of their liberties.
He addressed the inequality between commercial legality and social acceptance, proclaiming that "The 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." However, Washington also endorsed segregation by claiming that blacks and whites could exist as separate fingers of a hand.
*cite web|url=http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/39/|title=Booker T. Washington Delivers the 1895 Atlanta Compromise Speech|work=History Matters|publisher=
George Mason University|accessdate=2006-01-30
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