Booker T. Washington: Atlanta Exposition Address

(1895)

Explanation and Analysis of the Document

Washington's Atlanta Exposition Address was presented in the auditorium on the exposition grounds. The auditorium was packed, mostly with whites, but there was also a segregated Negro section. Washington was one of two blacks seated on the stage, but he was the only one to speak. The speech itself was brief. In written form it is eleven paragraphs; Washington delivered it in about ten minutes.

In the first paragraph Washington notes the significance of the occasion. First, he emphasizes the significance of African Americans to the South—“One-third of the population of the South is of the Negro race”—and observes that no enterprise for the development of the South that ignores that element of the population will “reach the highest success.” In this sentence, Washington introduces the major theme of his address: that the destinies and well-being of African American southerners and white southerners are inextricably linked. He returns to...

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

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