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The Atlanta Exposition Speech
Transcript of The Atlanta Exposition Speech
Booker T. Washington, a celebrated and influential black educator, gave a moving speech at the Atlanta Exposition to a crowd of affluent whites and blacks from both the North and the South, in which his purpose was to motivate both races to cooperate and work together to provide a better future for all citizens of the United States of America.
There is no defence or security for any of us except in the highest intelligence and development of all. If anywhere there are efforts tending to curtail the fullest growth of the Negro, let these efforts be turned into stimulating, encouraging, and making him the most useful and intelligent citizen.
Effort or means so invested
will pay a thousand per cen
. interest. These efforts will be twice blessed—“
blessing him that gives and him that takes
.” (Washington 108).
There is no escape through law of man or God from the inevitable:
The laws of changeless justice bind. Oppressor with oppressed;
And close as sin and suffering joined
We march to fate abreast
” (Washington 108).
Here, Washington uses ethos to appeal to the religious side of the white man, because the natural inclination of southern white men is to have natural respect for God. He also chose to use an aphorism in the case of justice exercising its power by binding the oppressor with the oppressed. He goes back to referring to the value black people have on society. Justice is blind, and if one person is unjust, then it will only bring down both the oppressor and the oppressed. It would then be logical to conclude that it would be wise for the white people to listen to Washington because, the black can either hinder or advance society as a whole.
In this segment, Washington uses a combination of logos and hyperbole. He shows once again that the African American is a very vital part of the south and that they will either hinder or progress the south. Here, he also shows a bit of forgiveness towards the south and he shows hopefulness towards the future by wishing the white man’s resentment to turn into encouragement and then in turn, have the south turn into a progressive state of affairs. He also chooses to show hyperbole to point out the exponential help that the African American race would be for the south. He exaggerates when he says “one thousand per cent.”Clearly,this is a huge promise, but he says this because there is so many African-Americans who want to work, and it wouldn’t matter what they do because they do not care about how fancy the job is; the only thing blacks want is an honest job.
In this paragraph Washington speaks to the whites, again tying in the bucket motif to convey his message. He tells the whites that they need not look to foreigners for the “prosperity of the South”, but to the people who have been their neighbors for as long as anyone can remember and who are still their neighbors, despite the changes in circumstance. Washington tells the southern whites to invest in the people that have done so much for them and who still give their loyalty and devotion. To persuade the whites towards this action,Washington uses exemplification, pathos, and lastly, logos. First listed are the many jobs and undertakings that have been accomplished by the blacks for the whites, great achievements that were done not for the blacks themselves but for the whites. Secondly, Washington lists what the blacks will do for the whites, if only they are helped and guided. He then uses exemplification again to remind the whites of the blacks’ loyalty in the past, listing several duties that the blacks performed for their family members and loved ones. This exemplification displays a good deal of pathos, describing how the blacks cared for the whites children and elderly and grieved for the whites’ loved ones when they passed. Washington then uses logic, stating that in the same way they were loyal back then they will still be loyal today.
By using this simile, Washington assures the southern whites that the blacks do not want to challenge them socially, that they can remain divided, but that in matters that will help to further the progress of the South that they will be able to work together. This quote, I’m sure, was very effective at the time of it was spoken, but certainly doesn’t hold up today. Washington says several times throughout the book that he doesn’t wish to comment on social relations between the blacks and whites, that the social progress made by blacks will be slow and arduous, and that is the way it should be. Perhaps it was wise for Washington not to demand social equality so soon after the Civil War, but by doing this he set a standard for the whites as to how it was appropriate to treat blacks. It was alright for them to be separate, even a prominent black man had said so. This sentiment, I believe, is partially why Jim Crow laws lasted for so long in the South, and why it took almost a hundred years for social gains to start to be made for the southern blacks. Again, perhaps it truly was too soon for any social equality to be spoken of, but this quote simply doesn’t sit right with me. If he wasn’t going to ask for equality, he shouldn’t have mentioned it at all.
“To those of the white race who look to the incoming of those of foreign birth and strange tongue and habits for the prosperity of the South, were I permitted I would repeat what I say to my own race,
“Cast down your bucket where you are.” Cast it down
among the eight millions of Negroes whose habits you know, whose fidelity and love you have tested in days when to have proved treacherous meant the ruin of your firesides.
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.
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.
While doing this, you can be sure in the future, as in the past, that you and your families will be surrounded by the most patient, faithful, law-abiding, and unresentful people that the world has seen.
As we have proved our loyalty to you in the past,
in nursing your children, watching by the sick-bed of your mothers and fathers, and often following them with tear-dimmed eyes to their graves
so in the future, in our humble way, we shall stand by you with a devotion that no foreigner can approach, ready to lay down our lives, if need be, in defence of yours, interlacing our industrial, commercial, civil, and religious life with yours in a way that shall make the interests of both races one.
In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress”
One-third of the population of the South is of the Negro race. No enterprise seeking the material, civil, or moral welfare of this section can disregard this element of our population and reach the highest success.
I but convey to you, Mr. President and Directors, the sentiment of the masses of my race when I say that in no way have the value and manhood of the American Negro been more fittingly and generously recognized than by the managers of this magnificent Exposition at every stage of its progress. It is a recognition that will do more to cement the friendship of the two races than any occurrence since the dawn of our freedom” (Washington 106).
A ship lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel. From the mast of the unfortunate vessel was seen a signal, “Water, water; we die of thirst!” The answer from the friendly vessel at once came back, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” A second time the signal, “Water, water; send us water!” ran up from the distressed vessel, and was answered, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” And a third and fourth signal for water was answered, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” The captain of the distressed vessel, at last heeding the injunction, cast down his bucket, and it came up full of fresh, sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon River.
To those of my race who depend on bettering their condition in a foreign land or who underestimate the importance of cultivating friendly relations with the Southern white man, who is their next-door neighbour, I would say: “Cast down your bucket where you are”—cast it down in making friends in every manly way of the people of all races by whom we are surrounded” (Washington 106).
“Not only this, but the opportunity here afforded will awaken among us a new era of industrial progress. Ignorant and inexperienced,
it is not strange that in the first years of our new life we began at the top instead of at the bottom; that a seat in Congress or the state legislature was more sought than real estate or industrial skill; that the political convention of stump speaking had more attraction than starting a dairy farm or truck garden
” (Washington 106).
Cast it down in agriculture, mechanics, in commerce, in domestic service, and in the professions.
And in this connection it is well to bear in mind that whatever other sins the South may be called to bear, when it comes to business, pure and simple, it is in the South that the Negro is given a man’s chance in the commercial world, and in nothing is this Exposition more eloquent than in emphasizing this chance. Our greatest danger is that in the great leap from slavery to freedom we may overlook the fact that the masses of us are to live by the productions of our hands, and fail to keep in mind that we shall prosper in proportion as we learn to dignify and glorify common labour and put brains and skill into the common occupations of life; shall prosper in proportion as we learn to draw the line between the superficial and the substantial, the ornawgaws of life and the useful.
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. Nor should we permit our grievances to overshadow our opportunities” (Washington 106-107).
Nearly sixteen millions of hands will aid you in pulling the load upward, or they will pull against you the load downward.
We shall constitute
and more of the ignorance and crime of the South, or
its intelligence and progress; we shall contribute one-third to the business and industrial prosperity of the South, or we shall prove a veritable body of death, stagnating, depressing, retarding every effort to advance the body politic”
“Gentlemen of the Exposition, as we present to you our humble effort at an exhibition of our progress, you must not expect overmuch. Starting thirty years ago with ownership here and there in a few quilts and pumpkins and chickens (gathered from miscellaneous sources), remember
that has led from these to the inventions and production of agricultural implements, buggies, steam-engines, newspapers, books, statuary, carving, paintings, the management of drug-stores and banks,
has not been trodden without contact with thorns and thistles
. While we take pride in what we exhibit as a result of our independent efforts, we do not for a moment forget that our part in this exhibition would fall far short of your expectations but for the constant help that has come to our educational life, not only from the Southern states, but especially from Northern philanthropists
, who have made their gifts a constant stream of blessing and encouragement
” (Washington 108).
“The wisest among my race understand that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremest folly, and that progress in the enjoyment of all the privileges that will come to us must be the result of severe and constant struggle rather than of artificial forcing.
No race that has anything to contribute to the markets of the world is long in any degree ostracized.
It is important and right that all privileges of the law be ours, but it is vastly more important that we be prepared for the exercises of these privileges.
The opportunity to earn a dollar in a factory just now is worth infinitely more than the opportunity to spend a dollar in an opera-house” (Washington 108-109).
“In conclusion, may I repeat that nothing in thirty years has given us more hope and encouragement, and drawn us so near to you of the white race, as this opportunity offered by the Exposition;
and here bending, as it were, over the altar that represents the results of the struggles of your race and mine,
both starting practically empty-handed three decades ago, I pledge that in your effort to work out the great and intricate problem which
has laid at the doors of the South, you shall have at all times the patient, sympathetic help of my race; only let this be constantly in mind, that, while from representations in these buildings of the product of field, of forest, of mine, of factory, letters, and art, much good will come, yet far above and beyond material benefits will be that higher good, that,
let us pray God
, will come, in a blotting out of sectional differences and racial animosities and suspicions, in a determination to administer absolute justice, in a willing obedience among all classes to the mandates of law. This, this, coupled with our material prosperity, will bring into our beloved South a
new heaven and a new earth
” (Washington 109).
Washington uses appeal to logic to warn the audience of the power ( that some may not necessarily be aware of) that the black race held in society. He does this to open the cultural floodgates to those who disregard and ignore the black populace, and to make them see that, yes, there are blacks and they make up a significant percentage of the population. Washington shows that this portion could either make or break the prospect of
in America, depending on how well whites and blacks were willing to work with each other without letting racial prejudice intervene.
Washington uses a periodic sentence and parallelism in an attempt to explain to those who were not black the thoughts and aspirations that the blacks sought for after slavery. He explains that the blacks aimed high because, due to slavery, they were naive and inexperienced in the real world. They had high expectations of a free life; they did not know where else to start than at the top. Washington argues that, due to this, giving blacks training in industry will certainly increase industrial progress because the blacks are eager to become skilled and accomplished in life. Washington does this to persuade the audience that sending blacks to schools like his and providing them opportunities will help not only blacks but whites as well.
This allegory is one of the most memorable segments from Washington’s Atlanta Exposition speech, and it is used to accomplish several things. It is the basis for a good portion of the speech - instructing both the whites and the blacks that it is necessary to foster good nature towards one another and to cooperate to create the most prosperous South possible. First, Washington tells the blacks that they cannot forget about the southern whites or refuse to forgive them. The blacks and the whites are neighbors, and to ignore each other is to disregard the resources that have been laid at their feet. Washington tells the blacks that they must let go of their pain and work with the whites to gain the best possible lives for themselves.
Washington connects this paragraph to the former through the repetition of “cast it down”. He continues his message to the black populace, telling them to invest themselves in economics, for through this outlet they can find equality in the South. He then uses repetition of the word “prosper” to emphasize his message: they must begin by doing simple jobs in simple facets of life if the majority is going to prosper. Washington repeats, once more, that they must begin at the bottom, not the top.
Washington uses a simile to convey to the audience that it is not shameful to participate in jobs that require manual labor, and that in fact filling these positions is essential in order for the majority to succeed. Following this simile Washington reminds the blacks once again that it is important that they not hold grudges against the whites, lest they lose opportunities that would have otherwise been offered to them.
Washington chooses to end the speech with a recap of what he has just said throughout the entire exposé. Choosing to leave off with God was very strategic in the fact that he is putting the future of the nation and it’s race relations in the hands of God. He also appeals to the very conservative southern group who has God very present in their everyday lives.
In the Bible, precisely in Revelation 21:1, it talks about a “new heaven and a new earth.” In the Bible, the new heaven and the new earth symbolize the new and rejuvenated relations with God and his people. After the bad times and all the evil have past, the new heaven and the new earth will be a place for prosperity and freedom. In this context, Washington uses this as an allusion to the restored relations between the blacks and the whites. When material prosperity is conjugated with work, according to Washington, the new “pact” of the South and the North is brought into play; the new pact has the connotation of being free and peaceful and harmonious, this will bring a new era of prosperity between the two races; and this is an effective use of allusion since both the south and the blacks both have a shared religious belief and they can relate.
Washington uses logos here to justify to the blacks why it is unwise to go seeking social equality so soon after emancipation. He states that any race that has something to contribute to the economy will not remain ignored, and he implies that eventually blacks will be accepted into society if they continue to offer their services to the world. He also states that although it is important that blacks be given their lawful rights, that it is more important that they know how to use these rights
Washington is trying to convey the message here that the path to success is not walked on without thorns and obstacles. He uses a metaphor of a path with thorns to describe the situation blacks have been facing for quite some time now. Washington knows that the path before them is not very clear, but is thankful for all of the progress the south has made in its time since emancipation. He goes on to thank the north later for all of its support during this transitional period with another metaphor. “especially the Northern philanthropists, who have made their gifts a constant stream of blessing and encouragement.” The Northern states were more than glad to help out with the cause, comparing the North’s support as a steady stream of gifts, blessings, and encouragements. This is a positive thing to say for his argument because he does not want to simply overlook what the white people have done, he wants to praise them for their efforts to ameliorate the situation between the races.
Here, Washington uses a metaphor once more, depicting the load a ship must carry as symbol of progress that will either be hindered or expedited. The black populace is clearly wanting to help, but without the support from their fellow white counterparts, they will only hinder progress. He achieves this through logos once again by stating that the black populace is one-third the total. He also uses a periodic sentence to keep all of his ideas as one piece and to strengthen his argument rather than leave all of the parts as individual ideas and therefore weakening the points. Washington also chooses to use parallelism to show that the blacks will either constitute one-third more ignorance to the south or help out the south in carrying out one-third more work than it was doing before.
Washington also uses an allusion here from Shakespeare's play, "The Merchant of Venice". This serves to provide Washington with a reputable supporter of the claim he has just made-that the act of generosity blesses both the receiver and the giver. This is done in an attempt to convince the southern whites that the blacks are worth investing in, and that through this investment they will ultimately be benefitted as well.
Washington leads into this quote by stating to the audience that although it is important that all blacks be given their “privileges”, that it is much more important that they be able to utilize these privileges responsibly. Therefore, the ability to earn money through labor is more important than the ability to spend it somewhere frivolous. The use of parallelism serves to emphasize this statement while also making it it logical and memorable to the audience.
Washington chooses to make the altar a motif, or symbol for progress. Years before, having a black man speak in front of an entire group of people was unheard of. Now, at the altar, having Washington there is proof of the melioration of race relations. All eyes are on the podium when Washington speaks, and it is a very powerful image in that sense. There was never a time before this that everyone was focused on what an African-American had to say. The news for the next few days was all about Washington and his speech at Atlanta. This was pretty historic, and it all happened when Washington took the podium.
Booker T. Washington, renowned educator, author, and lecturer, wrote Up from Slavery in 1901, which is his autobiography that documents his memoirs about slavery, his schooling, and as the principal of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. In the following excerpt from the novel, Washington shares his memories of his most famous speech: The Atlanta Exposition Address. Washington was invited to speak at the Atlanta Exposition in 1895 to a vast group of people of both black and white ethnicities. He gave a powerful speech in which his goal was to motivate both whites and blacks to cooperate together and to put aside racial prejudice for the betterment of the America’s future. Read the excerpt and write an essay in which you analyze the strategies