September 18th, 1895 – The Atlanta Compromise


On September 18th, 1895, Booker T. Washington delivered the “Atlanta Compromise” address, an agreement struck with president of the Tuskegee Institute, and other African-American leaders, and Southern white leaders. It was opposed by W. E. B. Du Bois and other African-American leaders.

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The agreement was that Southern blacks would work meekly and submit to white political rule, while Southern whites guaranteed that blacks would receive basic education and due process in law. Blacks would not agitate for equality, integration, or justice, and Northern whites would fund black educational charities.

The compromise was announced at the Atlanta Exposition Speech. The primary architect of the compromise, on behalf of the African-Americans, was Booker T. Washington, president of the Tuskegee Institute. Supporters of Washington and the Atlanta compromise were termed the “Tuskegee Machine.”

The agreement was never written down. Essential elements of the agreement were that blacks would not ask for the right to vote, they would not retaliate against racist behavior, they would tolerate segregation and discrimination, that they would receive free basic education, education would be limited to vocational or industrial training (for instance as teachers or nurses), liberal arts education would be prohibited (for instance, college education in the classics, humanities, art, or literature).

After the turn of the 20th century, other black leaders, most notably W. E. B. Du Bois and William Monroe Trotter – (a group Du Bois would call The Talented Tenth), took issue with the compromise, instead believing that African-Americans should engage in a struggle for civil rights. W. E. B. Du Bois coined the term “Atlanta Compromise” to denote the agreement. The term “accommodationism” is also used to denote the essence of the Atlanta compromise.

After Washington’s death in 1915, supporters of the Atlanta compromise gradually shifted their support to civil rights activism, until the modern Civil Rights Movement commenced in the 1950s.


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