ATLANTA COMPROMISE The "Atlanta Compromise" is an expression which historically has been used to describe the content and the implications of a speech delivered by Booker T. Washington at the Atlanta Cotton Exposition in 1895. Encouraging his fellow blacks to adopt a policy of peaceful coexistence with white southerners by respecting the "color-line" and by self-help and self-improvement, Washington maintainedthat the future of America's black population was dependent upon the need for vocational (as opposed to liberal arts) education rather than upon immediate agitation for civil rights.
Urging African Americans to "cast down your bucket where you are," Washington went on to emphasize the danger "that in the great leap from slavery to freedom we may overlook the fact that the masses of us are to live by the productions of our hands, and fail to keep in mind that we shall prosper in proportion as we learn to dignify and glorify common labor, and put brains and skill into the common occupations of life. No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem. It is at the bottom of life we must begin and not at the top."