The Booker T. Washington Era

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Updated: May 13, 2020
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Booker T. Washington was the leader of the African American community during the late 1900s. On September 18, 1985, he spoke in front of an audience at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta that was known to be a very moving speech.Throughout Washington’s speech, he addresses a message towards African Americans and whites Southerners. During his speech, he makes very arguable points about the significant difference between the black community and the white community. One of his arguments made was “our greatest danger is that in the great leap from slavery to freedom we may overlook the fact that the mass of us are to live by the productions of our hands, and fail to keep in mind that we shall prosper in proportion(pg.2).”” Booker wants equality between the two along with working together as a whole country. As a divided country this causes no one to have peace and creates discrimination which in this case would be based on one’s skin color. Washington believed that blacks would have to start at the bottom and gradually work up to gain power before demanding equal citizenship. The benefit of achieving this goal would be that the black community would build a strong social foundation. African Americans would have to work hard and earn their respect in the black community gaining the esteem of white society . This is why the black community should get over their past treatment and should start “at the bottom of life and not at the top(pg.2).””

In his speech, he states,“ our greatest danger is that in the great leap from slavery to freedom we may overlook the fact that the mass of us are to live by the productions of our hands, and fail to keep in mind that we shall prosper in proportion(pg.2).”” Therefore acknowledging the fact that as a black community they don’t question anything due to overcoming slavery and gaining freedom in return. By asserting his position in bringing a balance in equality between the two this would give them the economic security they seeked. “Cast down your bucket among these people who have, without strikes and labour wars, tilled your fields, cleared your forests, builded your railroads and cities, and brought forth treasures from the bowels of the earth, and helped make possible this magnificent representation of the progress of the South.” He wanted whites to realize that the black community were a good source towards labor businesses. Whites in the South needed to realize that they need each other and should work together to coexist. African Americans should have the work that will help them throughout their lives with respect and in the future for them fulfill their citizenship. Washington brings attention to the difference in powers between African Americans and Whites but provides an alternative that can bring peace within the two. Washington then states, “Casting down your bucket among my people, helping and encouraging them as you are doing on these grounds, and to education of head, hand, and heart, you will find that they will buy your surplus land, make blossom the waste places in your fields, and run your factories.” By this wanting to show them how working together could benefit the South along with opening up their mind set about one another.

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In the quote “ casting down your bucket ”, Washington implies that he wants everyone to be friends in a manly way no matter the race and end discrimination. Along with wanting blacks to be equal entrepreneurs due to Whites always being privileged and African Americans receiving less in economic conditions. In 1960 Martin Luther King Jr was an influential speaker because of his goal to stop racism and bring peace to society. His simplicity came in two simple words to the public “ equality ” and “nonviolence (¶. 1).”” It’s important to take into consideration that if this individual was alive when Washington gave his speech King would be an important advocate because he would have also been fighting for African American rights. Whites were arrogant to realize that African Americans have always been a value to the south. That is the reason why Booker states, “prosper in proportion as we learn to draw the line between the superficial and the substantial.”” This is why the white community need to accept responsibility for improving the social and economic conditions of all Americans regardless of skin color.

Du Bois is refuting Booker T. Washington because he doesn’t believe race is the problem, he believes applying oneself to study the liberal arts in order to have the same rights as white citizens. Washington is willing to lose his constitutional rights in order to prove his point that the black community should be equal like the whites rather than having to struggle. Du Bois concern with Washington was “the striving of nobly to make negro artisans businessmen and property-owners (pg.3)”, he believed it was “utterly impossible, under modern competitive methods, for working men and property-owners to defend their rights and exist with the right of suffrage (pg.3).” Dubois understood Washington’s thinking but believed that it was not the solution to the “race problem”. According to Du Bois, “he advocates common-school and industrial training, and depreciates institutions of learning.” Blacks should study liberal arts, and have the same rights as white citizens. Du Bois also believed, they should not have to sacrifice their constitutional rights in order to achieve a status that was already guaranteed. Having to study for their rights is more of a smart choice to do than fighting for their rights.

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The Booker T. Washington Era. (2020, May 13). Retrieved from