What was the main idea of the Atlanta Compromise speech given by Booker T. Washington?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Washington's speech argued that the new landscape of post Civil War America lent itself for African- Americans to be a valuable component.  I think that this is seen in Washington's call for African- Americans to be a part of the new move from farms to factories, and to partake in the industrialist setting that enveloped America.  There was less of a call for racial and social equality and more of a call for African- Americans to be a part of the economic progress of the time period.  The speech called for African- Americans to be a part of the labor pool, to be viewed as more important than immigrant labor, and to be content with the idea of earning an income in this setting.  The speech did not call for a transformation of power or a change in how African- Americans were viewed or how they possessed power in such a setting.  Rather, the speech called for African- Americans to be a part of this industrial progress, however small a part that might be.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The main idea of Booker T. Washington’s “Atlanta Compromise” speech (delivered in 1895) was that blacks and whites in the South should realize that they needed each other and that they should act in ways that would allow them to coexist.  Washington told both sides to “cast down your bucket where you are.” 

Washington’s message was aimed at Southerners of both races.  He wanted the white Southerners to realize that black Southerners were a good source of labor for them.  He wanted the whites to hire black people to work for them instead of hoping that they could get immigrant labor.  He argued that black workers had proved their fidelity and their industriousness and that they would not engage in strikes and other disruptions that would harm their employers.

At the same time, Washington wanted black Southerners to be content where they were.  He wanted them to stop thinking about going to the North or to foreign countries.  He felt that they should not try to push for political power or equal rights.  Instead, they should work hard in the South and, by doing so, cause whites to (eventually) respect them.