A Lot of People Know Who Booker T Was, but Most Don’t Appreciate How Bad it Must Have Been: Black History Month

Booker T. Washington gave one of America’s most influential speeches in 1895 at the Cotton States and World Expo. I would paraphrase it this way, “We promise not to try to vote, we will accept an inferior place in society, if the white people will promise to stop killing us.”

No really, that was the gist of his speechwallofruins

It became known as the Atlanta Compromise and was seen as the settling of the American social order regarding race moving into the 1900’s.

Now mind you this is Booker T. Washington, best selling author, president of the Tuskegee Institute, huge fund raiser for Black education and philanthropy, and he is saying “we” will settle for being subjugated because it would be an improvement.

I’m not sure we of today appreciate how bad it must have been for smart ambitious people to see subjugation as the best viable option.vintagemate

Whatever the views of the day, and there were other opinions, this compromise was seen as the rule by those in power. It was the foundation for Southern for the next 50-60 years till a bunch of college kids started agitating.

This is a foundational part of American history.

 

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “A Lot of People Know Who Booker T Was, but Most Don’t Appreciate How Bad it Must Have Been: Black History Month

  1. Thought provoking post. Do you think Booker T was “settling” or did he really feel that was the best alternative. When I have read the speech, it puzzles me that someone who accomplished so much would seemingly agree on behalf of all black folks to accept less….and be less….Thanks for sharing!

    • I think he thought it was the most viable tactic to racial uplift at the time. I do not think he believed himself less-than. I think he understood the white establishment well enough to believe that black people would have to take this accommodationist stance first, to eventually build up the capital and influence to then later demand, or in the eyes of the whites “earn” personhood.

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