Booker T. Washington: Atlanta Exposition Address


Booker T. Washington delivered his Atlanta Exposition Address late on a hot mid-September afternoon in 1895 to a standing-room-only crowd packed into Atlanta's Exposition Park auditorium during the opening ceremonies of the Cotton States and International Exposition. The Atlanta Exposition Address, a speech that ran a little over ten minutes, propelled the previously unknown principal of Tuskegee Institute, a small black college in rural Alabama, into the national spotlight. By almost any measure, it (along with Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, 1963 “I Have a Dream” Speech) was one of the most important speeches presented by an African American. The immediate response, both in Atlanta and across the country, was overwhelmingly positive, but over time both Washington and his address have been sharply criticized, especially by other African American intellectuals and leaders. These critics termed the Atlanta address the “Atlanta Compromise” and made Washington a symbol of...

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Booker T. Washington's Speech at the Atlanta Exposition (Library of Congress)

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