Booker T. Washington marker in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park

Close to a main entrance of Piedmont Park, Atlanta’s equivalent of Central Park, sits a marker at the site where Booker T. Washington delivered his famous “Cast down your bucket” speech in 1895. In his speech, which was praised by southern whites, Washington urged blacks and whites in the South to work together to build the region’s economy. He argued blacks should tacitly accept restrictions on their civil rights. Read the speech here. The speech crystallized Wasington’s view on racial compromise, a view that would later be openly challenged by W.E.B. Du Bois, then a professor in Atlanta, in The Souls of Black Folk, published in 1903. The two views divided black political activists for years. During the “Red Summer” of 1919, Du Bois’s view — which urged black people to fight for political and legal equality — quickly dominated black political activity and shaped civil rights activism for decades to come.

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