The South was a complete mess after the Civil War. The early part of the 20th century brought many changes for African Americans. There was a difficult challenge of helping newly free African American slaves assimilate among their white counterparts. They suffered from crop failures, economic hardships, and the early failures of Reconstruction in the south. So as result many Southern African Americans migrated to northern cities in search of employment and a chance at a better life. However, Southern African Americans migrating to northern cities quickly discovered that they were not able to enjoy the same social and economic mobility experienced by their European immigrant counterparts arriving around the same time. There were many questions that had to be asked and answered not just among politicians, but the entire white and black populations. Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois and John Hope all attempted to conquer these tough issues based on their own experience and cultural influences by sharing their opinions.
A well-respected African American leader named Booker T. Washington gave a speech that would be later named the "Atlanta Compromise" at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta on September 18, 1895 (Booker T. Washington Biography). Booker T. Washington was born in to slavery and would eventually gain his freedom after the Civil War was over. He was biracial, but never knew who his white father was (Booker T. Washington Biography). His “Atlanta Compromise” speech was very controversial amongst the African American community. This speech was controversial, because Washington basically told African Americans to “work within the system” and to “try to get along” with whites (43-45). It was an agreement provided that Southern African Americans would submit to discrimination, segregation, lack of voting rights, and non-unionized employment. It was in exchange with Southern whites so that they would permit African Americans to receive a basic education, some economic opportunities, and justice within the legal system. It also included that Northern whites would invest in Southern enterprises and fund African American educational charities.
The Atlanta Compromise was said only 30 years after slavery had been abolished. Racial tensions were still at an all-time high with the emergence of the Ku Klux Klan and white southerners reluctant to give up slaves. Washington’s speech emphasized that African Americans should help white people, especially southern whites. In order to improve relations with southern whites, Washington suggested vocational-industrial education for African Americans. His ideas were a contrast to W.E.B. Du Bois.
How could Booker T. Washington realistically expect African Americans to essentially pretend to be buddies with white people? The south still felt slavery was a good thing. Slaves created a significant amount of income for their owners. The south felt it was a social necessity and wanted to...