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(1896) Booker T. Washington, “Democracy and Education”

In 1895 Booker T. Washington, the founder and Principal of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama rose to national prominence when he gave his famous Atlanta Compromise Speech at the Cotton States Exposition.  Approximately one year later on September 30, 1896, Washington addressed an audience at the Institute of Arts and Sciences in Brooklyn, New York, where he gives his views on race, democracy, and education in the United States.  

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is said that the strongest chain is no stronger than its weakest link. In the Southern part of our country there are twenty-two millions of your brethren who are bound to you by ties which you cannot tear asunder if you would. The most intelligent man in your community has his intelligence darkened by the ignorance of a fellow citizen in the Mississippi bottoms. The most wealthy in your city would be more wealthy but for the poverty of a fellow being in the Carolina rice swamps. The most moral and religious among you has his religion and morality modified by the degradation of the man in the South whose religion is a mere matter of form or emotionalism.

The vote in your state that is cast for the highest and purest form of government is largely neutralized by the vote of the man in Louisiana whose ballot is stolen or cast in ignorance. When the South is poor, you are poor; when the South commits crime, you commit crime. My friends, there is no mistake; you must help us to raise the character of our civilization or yours will be lowered...

Can you make your intelligence affect us in the same ratio that our ignorance affects you? Let us put a not improbable case, one that involves peace or war, the honor or dishonor of our nation--yea, the very existence of the government. The North and West are divided. There are five million votes to be cast in the South, and of this number one half are ignorant. Not only are one half the voters ignorant, but, because of this ignorant vote, corruption, dishonesty in a dozen forms have crept into the exercise of the

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