Booker T. Washington: Atlanta Exposition Address

(1895)

Impact

The immediate response to the speech was phenomenal. In the auditorium the audience burst into thunderous applause the moment Washington finished speaking; the former governor of Georgia, who had presided over the proceedings, rushed forward to congratulate Washington. Newspapers around the country reported the address and reprinted the speech. Perhaps none did so as effusively as Joseph Pulitzer's New York World, with headlines announcing that “A Negro Moses Spoke for a Race.” The reporter described Washington facing the crowd with the sun in his eyes, his “whole face lit up with the fire of prophecy. … It electrified the audience, and the response was as if it had come from the throat of a whirlwind” (Harlan, 1972–1989, vol. 4, pp. 3–15).

Within days, letters and telegrams poured in praising Washington and his speech, anointing Washington as the successor to the recently deceased Frederick Douglass and comparing the speech to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. One who...

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

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