BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY
In 1895, Booker T. Washington publicly put forth his philosophy on race relations in a speech at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia, known as the "Atlanta Compromise." In his speech, Washington stated that African Americans should accept disenfranchisement and social segregation as long as whites allow them economic progress, educational opportunity and justice in the courts. This started a firestorm in parts of the African-American community, especially in the North. Activists like W.E.B. Du Bois (who was working as a professor at Atlanta University at the time) deplored Washington's conciliatory philosophy and his belief that African Americans were only suited to vocational training. Du Bois criticized Washington for not demanding equality for African Americans, as granted by the 14th Amendment, and subsequently became an advocate for full and equal rights in every realm of a person's life.
Though Washington had done much to help advance many African Americans, there was some truth in the criticism. During Washington's rise as a national spokesperson for African Americans, they were systematically excluded from the vote and political participation through black codes and Jim Crow laws as rigid patterns of segregation and discrimination became institutionalized throughout the South and much of the country.
In 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to the White House, making him the first African American to be so honored. Both President Roosevelt and his successor, President William Howard Taft, used Washington as an adviser on racial matters, partly because he accepted racial subservience. His White House visit and the publication of his autobiography, Up from Slavery,
brought him both acclaim and indignation from many Americans. While some African Americans looked upon Washington as a hero, others, like Du Bois, saw him as a traitor. Many Southern whites, including some prominent members of Congress, saw Washington's success as an affront and called for action to put African Americans "in their place."
Booker T. Washington remained the head of Tuskegee Institute until his death on November 14, 1915, at the age of 59, of congestive heart failure.