In Booker T. Washington's Atlanta Exposition Address he advised to "cast down your bucket where you are." What does this phrase mean?
He advised this to black and white southerners. Why did he give this advice and how did others respond to it?
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Booker T. Washington was one of the most politically powerful African Americans at the beginning of the of the 20th century. He delivered his now famous "Exposition Address" at the Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta on September 18, 1895.
His address is an earnest plea to the blacks not to engage in any form of militant protest to secure their civil rights and equality with their white neighbours: "The wisest among my race understand that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremest folly." On the contrary, he urges them to take advantage of the numerous opportunities in the field of agriculture, business and commerce and succeed in life: "no race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem. It is at the bottom of life we must begin and not at the top."
He emphasises his message to his audience with an anecdote of a ship which had been lost at sea right at the very mouth of the river Amazon and whose sailors were dying of thirst. They managed to survive after they listened to the advice of the skipper of a friendly vessel who told them to "cast down their bucket" into the sea and draw up the fresh water.
The blacks are also like the distressed sailors: they are ignorant of their very means of survival which are readily available so close at hand. He urges them to be practical and utilize the easily accessible commercial opportunities and better their status.
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