In his famous Atlanta Compromise speech in 1895, Washington declared, "In all things simply social, we can be as different as the fingers." This remark might be interpreted as demeaning to black people. Many blacks objected with it, but many whites supported it. It has been argued that this statement merely reflected the fact that slavery had made racial equality impossible in America at that time.
After the Civil War, there was little interest in abolishing slavery. Instead, there was a desire to bring blacks into society's mainstream: educationally, economically, and legally. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery, but not indentured servitude or apprenticeship. To address these issues, Congress passed the 14th Amendment in 1866. This amendment provided that any citizen of the United States who is denied their constitutional rights can file a claim with the federal court system. If the plaintiff wins their case, the defendant must provide them with legal redress.
The 15th Amendment to the Constitution provides that no American can be denied the right to vote because of race or color. This amendment was proposed shortly after the publication of "The Birth of a Nation" movie in 1915. That film portrayed African Americans as unregenerate savages who needed to be rescued by white men. As part of its campaign to promote support for its position on how to prevent voter fraud, the movie used this analogy to explain how African Americans should be allowed to vote.
On September 18, 1895, Booker T. Washington was chosen to deliver the keynote address at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia. The speech, known as the "Atlanta Compromise," was the first given by an African American before a racially diverse audience in the South. It was an overwhelming success, with an estimated crowd of 10,000 people attending each of the two sessions in which it was delivered.
In it, Washington called for peace between the races, asserted that black Americans could succeed in any field within our state rights framework, and warned against the dangers of racial violence. He concluded by calling on his listeners to help their fellow men and women by working hard and staying out of trouble.
Washington's speech is considered one of the most important in American history because of its influence on bringing about peaceful change in the South. Before this speech, there were no black leaders in the South, only slave owners. By speaking directly to the white people of the South, Washington made them feel comfortable with having blacks around them who could run their businesses and take care of their homes. He also showed them that black people could be trusted not to cause them any problems if they were given an opportunity. This message must have struck a chord with many people because soon after the exposition closed, several southern cities began allowing blacks to vote.
Washington's Compromise Speech in Atlanta When Booker T. Washington delivered this address in Atlanta, he was already a well-known educator and speaker. He rose to national notoriety as a result of his speech. In it, Washington defended slavery as a "positive good" for the black race, arguing that without it, blacks would be unable to improve their condition. He also criticized other blacks who advocated racial equality or integration into mainstream American life.
This speech made Washington very popular among white Southerners, who saw him as someone willing to put racial issues first. However, many African Americans felt differently about Washington's message, which they believed showed too much deference to whites. As a result, he did not receive an official invitation from Black Washington to attend the inauguration of George W. Bush in 2001. However, after learning of Bush's intention to honor such guests, Lincoln Alexander, chair of the President's Council on African American Affairs, asked that Washington be added to the list.
In addition to being praised by Southern leaders for showing respect for their institution, Washington's speech also won him many enemies within the black community. Many activists felt that he had sold out by calling for moderation and cooperation with white people instead of demanding rights equal to those of whites.