Eric Webster
HIST 157-0202
Sep. 28, 1999

Booker T. Washington's Atlanta "Compromise"

What was Booker T. Washington's view of southern whites?

He viewed the group he was addressing as businessmen confronting the problems of the South, namely the economic inferiority of the South to the North. He believed that southern whites could "cast their bucket where they were" to reap the benefits of a stable, industrious, and productive South.

What did he mean by cast down your bucket where you are?

For white businessmen, he meant that there was a black marketplace for their goods once blacks had achieved a modicum of economic success and that there was a huge black labor force willing and able to do good work. This population knew the crops, knew the language, and knew the culture of southern business.

How did he believe that blacks should contribute to the South?

He saw that blacks could either continue to hold back the South, or they could be responsible for a share of the South's success.

What were his goals?

He felt that social equality and justice would follow increased economic advancement. Blacks should concentrate on gradually moving themselves out of poverty through hard work and thrift, and it was pointless to aim any higher until the bottom rungs of the economic ladder had been scaled.

How did he define equality?

He was more concerned with blacks rights to "earn a dollar more than the right to enter a movie theater". He envisioned a sort of separate but equal society, "in all things purely social as separate as the five fingers yet when capable of acting in concert as productive as the entire hand".

He saw "no prejudice in the American dollar", and was for the time content to ask that economic opportunity not be denied to black people.

What was his view of politics?

He felt that it was great folly to pursue a career in politics, when blacks had not yet mastered the basics of free life, farming and earning a living. He felt that politics was a higher calling that blacks could aspire to once they had achieved. "It is at the bottom of life that we must begin, not at the top."

How did he measure progress?

His view of progress was that blacks would own property and become more responsible. He envisioned a black labor force that would transform the South from a infertile, backward part of the country into a fertile and productive region. For his people, he felt that social change and political freedoms would neccessarily follow the economic importance of a more developed black society.