The Atlanta Compromise, Reacting to the Past
"No republic is safe that tolerates a privileged class, or denies to any of its citizens equal rights and equal means to maintain them."
- Frederick Douglass
The year is 1895, and you are one of a select few who have been invited by Booker T. Washington to listen to him rehearse the speech that he will be delivering to a large audience at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta in a few days. After Frederick Douglass, who passed away earlier in the year, Mr. Washington is the leading African American figure in the South and beyond. You anxiously anticipate what the founder of Tuskegee will say, being acutely aware of the consequences his message will have on the future of the “Negro race.“ Your parents, former slaves, support your progressive views, but they remain comfortable in the roles they were left with after abolition and they accept Mr. Washington’s sentiment on conciliation. They wonder about the young W. E. B. Du Bois of whom you have spoken. Dr. Du Bois will also be among those who will listen to Mr. Washington rehearse his speech. Later, you will have a chance, with others in attendance, to give your honest perspective on the speech. You are excited to take part in what is expected to be a historic event.
The “you” in the previous paragraph is a role in a classroom game. In this game, students are participating in one of the most critical incidents in African American history, one that some believe was responsible for securing Jim Crow laws in the South for another 60 years. The people involved in these incidents were larger-than-life historical figures with views of what was best for African Americans and the recognition and the support of those in power for them to carry out their goals. While acting in these roles, students learn to understand how we make choices and the motivations for those choices, and how to communicate views effectively. They get to experience the many forces and tensions of the time, and recognize how those tensions continue to influence American history today, particularly African American history.
Reacting to the Past
The Atlanta Compromise Game, which I developed, is modeled in the style of “Reacting to the Past” games. In these games, students research and then take on roles of people of the time, attempting to carry out their agendas and persuading others in the process. Through this pedagogical model, students learn a host of skills—speaking, writing, critical thinking, problem solving, leadership, and teamwork—in order to prevail in difficult and complicated situations. They must communicate their ideas persuasively in papers and in-class speeches and meetings, pursuing a course of action they think will help them win the game.
The Reacting to the Past games (RTTP) were conceived of and pioneered in the late 1990s by Mark C. Carnes, professor of history at Barnard College. Professor Carnes learned from observations and discussions with students in his first year seminar courses that students were not comfortable discussing course content in class for fear of being judged by their classmates and teacher on a possible lack of comprehension. He also found that students felt a lack of connection to the required texts; they viewed the texts as “intellectual hurdles to be cleared” (Carnes 2004). Carnes concluded that if students were inhibited by their insecurities and not connecting, they might engage more if they assumed the identity of a participant in an event and if he took a more passive role in the process.
Scholars at Barnard College conducted a study on RTTP pedagogy from 1999 to 2005. Steven J. Stroessner, Laurie Susser Beckerman, and Alexis Whittaker, all of Barnard’s Department of Psychology, invited students to participate in a survey on first year seminar courses in general, without revealing the intention of the study. The scholars were looking primarily at psychological factors and writing and rhetoric skills. Their survey results revealed that students had higher self-esteem, greater empathy, and the belief that people can change over time when participating in RTTP courses (617).
Carnes, Mark. “Setting Students’ Minds on Fire.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 8, 2004. Web.
Reacting to the Past. Barnard College. 2016. https://reacting.barnard.edu/curriculum
Stroessner, Steven J., Laurie Susser Beckerman, and Alexis Whittaker. “All the World’s a Stage? Consequences of a Role-Playing Pedagogy on Psychological Factors and Writing and Rhetorical Skill in College Undergraduates.” Journal of Educational Psychology 101, no. 3 (2009): 605–620.
The Atlanta Compromise Game
Reacting to the Past documents typically include an instructor manual, a game manual for students, and role sheets. The following is a composite of these in the form of an instructor guide for the Atlanta Compromise Game. This section can be excerpted and adapted for students. Brief roles for up to fifteen players are included here, or students can make up their own roles as part of the game. The game is appropriate for students in an upper level advanced placement high school history course or in a first-year college seminar. It has been developed to take place over a series of four one-hour class sessions.
The famous speech that Booker T. Washington gave in Atlanta in 1895 is a critical part of American history with repercussions that reverberate today, over one hundred years later. The speech marks the beginning of the temporal setting of the game. Two major events set the stage for two counterfactual events played out in the game. The first of these is a meeting among a group of people invited by Booker T. Washington to provide their views on a rehearsal of the speech that he intends to deliver in a few days at the notable Cotton States and International Exposition in 1895. The second is a meeting called by W.E.B. Du Bois to discuss the Supreme Court’s Plessy v. Ferguson ruling less than one year later.
Students acting in roles of personalities of the time, most historical and some fictional, are interacting with one another without formal instruction. After the first class, in which the instructor sets up the game, discusses the historical context, and hands out roles and the first assignment, students will take over in their roles to discuss the speech in the second class session. Continuing in their roles, students will discuss Plessy v. Ferguson in the third class session.
In Reacting to the Past games, the instructor takes on the role of gamemaster, operating as a participant and secretary, handing out roles and assignments, announcing voting, and collecting the votes. As instructor, you are a passive observer the rest of the time. In the fourth and final class, you facilitate debriefing and discuss contemporary events that relate to issues raised in the game.
The objective of the game is for students acting in the roles they are playing to persuasively defend the faction they are aligned with in order to win the votes of those who are undecided.
The roles that students play in the game align with one of three factions: support, oppose, and undecided. Supporters accept the separate but equal mindset perpetuated through Jim Crow laws. Those in opposition are against the laws and do not accept that African Americans can live equally if separate. Finally, those who are undecided are between whether to accept Booker T. Washington’s message of conciliation and acceptance or to join the opposition. The support faction and the oppose faction work to persuade the undecided faction to join them.
The roles of those in the two decisive factions are historical figures. Personas of fictional students attending Tuskegee Institute, like the “you” introduced at the beginning of the chapter, represent the undecided. One student character is based on a young man, William F. Fonvielle, whose account of travelling through the South in 1892, “The South as I Saw It,” was published in the A.M.E. Zion Quarterly, a magazine established in North Carolina in 1890 that was, from its full title, "Designed to Represent, Religious Thought, Development and General Character of the Afro-American Race in America." Fonvielle is aligned with the opposition faction, but this information should only be known to the student in that role. Those in the decisive factions know only that they must persuade the students to take their side.
There are brief bios for up to 15 roles provided later in this chapter. For larger classes, students can create roles that will be voted on for inclusion in the game. An unequal amount of players is needed for voting to not result in a tie.
Primary sources serve as the research materials. A suggested reading list is included after the game play section of this guide.
Blank index cards
Pens or pencils
Class blog or Google document for students to post their opinion piece for peer review.
Prepare to play
- Start the class by introducing the Reacting to the Past role playing approach. Explain that students research and then take on roles of the people of that time, attempting to carry out their agendas and persuading others in the process.
- Follow with a discussion of the historical background and the setting for game play, encouraging student participation (40 minutes).
- Hand out the typed version of the speech and role sheets, and play the recording of the the beginning of Booker T. Washington reading the speech (10 minutes).
- Transition to role of secretary to hand out roles and give the assignment for the upcoming meeting.
In 1856, Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation as an executive order, declaring freedom for over three million former slaves. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution formally abolished slavery: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to the jurisdiction." The 14th Amendment granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” which included former slaves recently freed. In addition, it forbade states from denying any person "life, liberty or property, without due process of law" or "deny[ing] to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The 15th Amendment went further, granting African American men the right to vote, declaring that the "right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."
Reconstruction went into effect to aid four million newly freed men by providing education, workforce training, and land, as well as to encourage African Americans to live as equals. However, state governments in the South, dissatisfied with the change of status for all, established their own legal “black codes” that enforced separation of the races. This was under the guise of equal rights for all, separately. These codes, known as Jim Crow laws, disenfranchised blacks.
Booker T. Washington, born a slave in 1856, persevered through financial hardship to attend Hampton University. While there, he befriended the white founder of Hampton, General Samuel C. Chapman. Recognizing Washington’s potential, General Chapman appointed him head of a new school in Alabama. In 1881, Washington became the head of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, adding to his developing reputation as an African American leader.
By 1895, Washington was an established representative for African Americans in the South. He was writing and speaking widely about the evolution and progress of his community, but less on the unceasing oppression that southern African Americans still suffered. In the spring of 1895, he was invited to accompany a committee of nearly all White men from Atlanta to appear before a committee of all White members of Congress to appeal for help for the upcoming Exposition. During his time speaking, as he recounted in Up From Slavery, he announced that that “the Atlanta Exposition would present an opportunity for both races to show what advance they had made since freedom, and would at the same time afford encouragement to them to make still greater progress” (101).
Two years after an 1890 Louisiana statute that provided for segregated “separate but equal” railroad accommodations, Homer Plessy, a fair-skinned African American, was arrested for violating the statute; he had deliberately tested the law, convinced that it was unconstitutional. He was found guilty on the grounds that the law was a reasonable exercise of the state’s police powers based on custom, usage, and tradition. Presiding at the trial was John H. Ferguson. After the verdict, Plessy filed a petition for writs of prohibition and certiorari in the Supreme Court of Louisiana against Ferguson, asserting that segregation stigmatized blacks and was in violation of the 13th and 14th Amendments. When Booker T. Washington delivered his speech, this important case was still pending.
- Develop your role using primary source materials, when available. In your role, think about the motivations behind your alignment to your faction.
- Read and reflect on Booker T. Washington’s speech.
- Write a position from the perspective of your role. Respond to the following prompts.
- Do you support the speech? Why or why not? What would you suggest that Mr. Washington add to or remove from the speech? Why? If you are Booker T. Washington, why are you committed to the belief that conciliation is the answer? support Is there anything you would like to add or remove? If so, why?
- Do you support Jim Crow laws? Develop a persuasive argument for why you do or do not support segregation.
Day two will take place in a meeting room at the Tuskegee Institute.
- Arrange desks/tables and chairs to simulate a meeting room. Have name cards available for students to pick up as they enter class. They will seat themselves, placing the cards in front of them.
- The group convenes to discuss their views on the speech. Each person must state their position. Others can enter discussion to counter the position and then state their own. Booker T. Washington will state his position last.
- As gamemaster, you should take note of time and urge each person to speak, particularly if one person attempts to control the discussion. Allow most of the class time for group discussion. Fifteen minutes before the end of class, in your role as secretary, stand up to say that the meeting will be ending in five minutes. Call the end of the meeting.
- Hand out index cards for voting. Everyone will cast their (mandatory) vote based on the persuasiveness of positions represented in terms of separate but equal. Those aligned with a decisive faction are expected to not betray their faction. Undecided votes will determine which faction wins this round.
- Collect cards, count votes, and call out winning faction.
- Hand out assignment for next session.
“Wilberforce, 24, Sept., ‘95
My Dear Mr Washington: Let me heartily congratulate you upon your phenomenal success at Atlanta -- it was a word fitly spoken.
W. E. B. Du Bois”
The time is now eight months later. After the meeting discussing the speech that Booker T. Washington was to give at the Exposition, Washington thanked you in a personal note for your attendance and for your opinion. He added that the words he initially wrote were the ones he felt most deeply and that inspired him to deliver those same words at the Exposition on September 18, 1895.
The ruling of Plessy v. Ferguson is decided on May 18, 1896. Angered, W. E. B. Du Bois decides to invite all those in attendance at the meeting before Booker T. Washington’s speech to discuss the ruling.
- Look for an article to read on the ruling in a historical news source.
- As the role you are playing, write an opinion piece about the ruling for a newspaper, persuasively stating why you support it or oppose it. In this alternate version of 1895, a class blog will serve as the newspaper publishing your opinion. Each person will read each other’s opinions before class. Additionally, prepare notes on what you will discuss at the meeting.
- Write your comments on the ruling that you would like to discuss at the meeting.
Background on the case:
After Louisiana passed the Separate Car Act in 1890, enacted to allow rail carriers to segregate train cars, the Comité des Citoyens (Committee of Citizens) of New Orleans decided to challenge the law in the courts. On June 7, 1892, Homer Plessy, a fair-skinned “octoroon” (a person of one-eighth Black ancestry), purchased a first-class ticket and sat in white-only car. He was arrested and jailed for remaining in the car. The case was brought to trial in a New Orleans court and Plessy was convicted of violating the law. He then filed a petition against the judge in that trial, Hon. John H. Ferguson, at the Louisiana Supreme Court, arguing that the segregation law violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which forbids states from denying "to any person within their jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws," as well as that it violated the Thirteenth Amendment, which banned slavery. The Court upheld the doctrine of "Separate but Equal" and ruled against Plessy.
Read the case here.
Day three will take place in a meeting room at Wilberforce University in Ohio.
- Your responsibilities as gamemaster will be the same as they were during day two, but you are now W. E. B. Du Bois’ secretary.
- End the game with a quote from Du Bois’ essay “Of Booker T. Washington and Others,” published in Souls of Black Folk:
“In the history of nearly all other races and peoples the doctrine preached at such crises has been that manly self-respect is worth more than lands and houses, and that a people who voluntarily surrender such respect, or cease striving for it, are not worth civilizing. In answer to this, it has been claimed that the Negro can survive only through submission. Mr. Washington distinctly asks that black people give up, at least for the present, three things,—
First, political power,
Second, insistence on civil rights,
Third, higher education of Negro youth,—
and concentrate all their energies on industrial education, the accumulation of wealth, and the conciliation of the South. This policy has been courageously and insistently advocated for over fifteen years, and has been triumphant for perhaps ten years. As a result of this tender of the palm-branch, what has been the return? In these years there have occurred:
- The disfranchisement of the Negro.
- The legal creation of a distinct status of civil inferiority for the Negro.
- The steady withdrawal of aid from institutions for the higher training of the Negro” (53).
Write a reflection on your participation in the game, including:
- Your general feelings about portraying your role.
- Your connection to the motivations behind the person you portrayed.
- Your connection to the motivations of your faction.
- Your perception of the historical events viewed through the role you played.
Read the following:
Du Bois, W. E. B. 1903. "Of Booker T. Washington and Others." Souls of Black Folk. Project Gutenberg.
Brown v. Board of Education ruling. 1954. Topeka 347 U.S. 483.
Coates, Ta-Nehisi. 2009. “The Tragedy and Betrayal of Booker T. Washington.” The Atlantic. 31 Mar 2009.
Debriefing and discussion of readings.
Discuss reflections. Encourage everyone to participate in this discussion. Those who do not participate will turn in their reflection.
Discuss readings. Suggestion for discussion: Consider a potential catalyst that could have rid the South of Jim Crow before 1954, when the separate but equal doctrine was overturned by Brown v. Board of Education.
Optional: Timeline game
- For a class of fifteen students, create three identical timelines for three teams of five players. Use example below for increments.
- Write one event from list on individual sticky notes. Make three sets.
- Hang timelines around room, give each group a set of events. Each player takes two to three events to place on timeline.
- The first team to place events correctly along the timeline wins.
Booker T. Washington speech at Cotton Exposition (1895)
Plessy v. Ferguson ruling (1896)
Souls of Black Folk published (1903)
Harlem Renaissance (1920s-1930s)
Brown v. Board of Education (1954)
Montgomery Bus Boycott (1956)
Mississippi civil rights workers’ murders (June 21-22, 1964)
Civil Rights Act (enacted July 2, 1964)
Rodney King’s beating by the LAPD and subsequent LA riots (1991)
Barack Obama’s first term as President of the United States (2008)
Use of #blacklivesmatter hashtag on social media (2013)
Ferguson protests after Michael Brown’s death by a white police officer (2014)
Suggested Reading List
"The Atlanta Exposition: President Cleveland Starts the Machinery in Motion." 1895. The New York Times: 19 Sept. 1895.
"Separate Coach Law Upheld: The Supreme Court Decides a Case from Louisiana." 1896. The Washington Post 19 May 1896: 6. Available in ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
Douglass, Frederick. 1866. "Reconstruction." The Atlantic Monthly.
Du Bois, W. E. B. 1899. "A Negro Schoolmaster in the South." The Atlantic Monthly.
---. 1903. "Of Booker T. Washington and Others." Souls of Black Folk. Project Gutenberg.
Fonvielle, W. F. "The South As I Saw It." A.M.E. Zion Church Quarterly (1894): 149-58. African American Historical Serials Collection. Web.
Wells-Barnett, Ida B. A Red Record Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynchings in the United States, 1892-1893-1894. Chicago: Donohue & Henneberry, 1895. Project Gutenberg.
Washington, Booker T. 1896. "The Awakening of the Negro." The Atlantic Monthly.
---. 1896. "Aims to Uplift a Race: Booker T. Washington as The Negro's Industrial Benefactor." The Washington Post 21 June 1896: 25. ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
---. 1901. Up From Slavery. Project Gutenberg.
Washington, Booker T, and Du Bois, W. E. B. 1907. The Negro in the South, His Economic Progress in Relation to His Moral and Religious Development: Being the William Levi Bull Lectures for the Year 1907. Philadelphia: G.W. Jacobs & Co.
Washington, Booker T, Louis R. Harlan, and Raymond Smock. 1889. The Booker T. Washington Papers. Volume 3 1889-95. p 567-589. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1972.
The following are role sheets to hand out individually to students. Students should not share their roles with others.
Booker T. Washington
Faction: Supports Separate but Equal
You were born a slave in 1856 on a plantation in Franklin County, Virginia, and were raised with your brother and sister by your mother in the typical log cabin. Your mother was the plantation cook. You were called to the big house to do chores on occasion; once you served as fly swatter on a warm day when a meal was served outdoors. You were a curious boy and you yearned for an education once you were free. You eventually traveled to Hampton, Virginia, working day and night to support yourself and pay the fees to attend Hampton Institute. One of the directors of the school, General Chapman, saw your potential, mentored you, and then recommended that you be appointed as the head of the new Tuskegee Industrial and Normal Institute, which you became in 1881. You condemn slavery, but you see the benefit of learning the skills slaves used in their labor. You see this in terms of the economic value of these skills, as former White masters are dependent and must pay others to perform them.
Thomas Dixon Jr.
Faction: Supports Separate but Equal
You are a white Southerner born in 1964 in Shelby, North Carolina. You were educated at Wake Forest University and Johns Hopkins University, and considered a career in acting and then law. After failing at those, you followed in the footsteps of your father, becoming a Baptist minister. You will soon be moving to New York to preach in a church there. You have also begun to write historical novels incorporating your beliefs of the inferiority of the “Negro race,” including The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan
(1905). You are an overt segregationist and believe that lynchings by the Ku Klux Klan are justified. You are not eager to meet with the radicals, but you think that Booker T. Washington is a Negro who acknowledges that limiting education to teaching fieldwork, home-building, and similar skills is the way forward, and you are eager to have your say.
Edgar Garner Murphy
Faction: Supports Separate but Equal
You were born in Arkansas in 1869, but moved to Texas as a young boy with your mother and sister after your father abandoned the family. You then moved to Tennessee at 16 to study at the University of the South in Sewanee. You are an Episcopal priest and advocate for improved child labor laws and public education. You served churches in Texas before you were ordained in 1893. You are now Rector of St. Paul’s Church in Chillicothe, Ohio. You are a vocal supporter of white supremacy, but are horrified by the practice of lynching. You now believe that is it up to the southern white upper classes to stop allowing that barbaric act to continue. You have visited Tuskegee Industrial and Normal Institute, considering it as a site for meetings with other advocates of your causes.
Faction: Supports Separate but Equal
You were born in 1863 on your parents’ plantation in Madison County, Mississippi. Your father was a wealthy plantation owner but suffered great financial losses after the Civil War. As a result, he was no longer able to afford the tuition at Canton Young Ladies’ Academy. You educated yourself and opened a private school in a room on the plantation to earn income. Although you are deeply committed to public education and are an advocate for women’s rights, you remain a firm believer in white supremacy. You are currently working on your autobiography, A Slaveholder’s Daughter.
Faction: Supports Separate but Equal
You were born into slavery in 1847 at Davis Bend, Mississippi on the plantation of Joseph Davis, the brother of Jefferson Davis, who was the president of the Southern Confederacy. Mr. Davis provided relatively good working conditions and encouraged literacy among his slaves. He relied on your father for cotton transactions as well as for his skills as a mechanic. After the war, your parents stayed on the plantation and prospered. They improved the land, diversified the crops and became major cotton producers in the region. Your father fostered a colony of freedmen on the property until he was unable to sustain it. After your father died, you furthered his dream of a segregated community for Negroes, founding Mound Bayou between the big employers for the folks in the community, the Memphis and Vicksburg railroad lines. Five years ago, you were the only elected Negro representative allowed into the Mississippi Constitutional Convention, formed to promote disenfranchisement of Negroes. You support this measure, believing in the good of a segregated Negro community, as evidenced at Mound Bayou.
John Sharp Williams
Faction: Supports Separate but Equal
You were born in Memphis in 1854. Your mother died when you were young and your father, a colonel in the Confederate army, was killed in the Battle of Shiloh during the Civil War. Your mother’s father took you and your brother to his plantation where his second wife raised you after he died. You received a law degree from the University of Virginia, and in 1893, you were elected to the United States House of Representatives. You proudly proclaim your views on the limitations of the Negro race.
W.E.B. Du Bois
Faction: Opposes Separate but Equal
You were born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts in 1868 and raised in a racially integrated community. While you have not had to endure the racial upheaval in the south, you have had a fair share of bigotry aimed at you, particularly as an undergraduate at Fisk University. You very recently earned a doctorate from Harvard, the first African American to do so. As an undergraduate you attended Fisk University before transferring to Harvard, and studying abroad at the University of Berlin. You wrote to Mr. Washington to see there might be a place for you to teach there and received a curt offer of a position to teach math. You are currently teaching at Wilberforce University, Ohio but still not the areas of your specialty, History and Sociology, and therefore you are pursuing other teaching opportunities. You continue to write and are currently working on a monograph on the suppression of the slave trade. You are active in civil rights causes.
Ida B. Wells
Faction: Opposes Separate but Equal
You were born in Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1862, right before President Lincoln emancipated Confederate-held territory. Your parents, active in the Republican Party during Reconstruction, died from a yellow fever epidemic when you were a teen. To keep your remaining family together, you took a job as a teacher and later moved to Memphis to live with your aunt. You began your college education at Fisk University. You became appalled by the disenfranchisement of Negroes and felt compelled to speak out against it. The first incident that set you on the path of fighting for equal rights was in 1884, when you were ordered to a Jim Crow car where there were no first class accommodations, despite your having purchased a first class ticket. You hired an African American lawyer to sue the railroad company on your behalf, won the case in lower court only to have it appealed by the railroad company in Tennessee Supreme Court. The higher court concluded that you were not acting in good faith to find a suitable seat for the ride, reversing the lower court’s ruling. As co-owner and editor of The Free Speech and Headlight, a local Negro newspaper in Memphis, you wrote your own editorials condemning violence against Negroes, disenfranchisement, and failure of Negroes to fight for equal rights. In 1892, your friend Tom Moss was lynched after defending his store against an attack by whites. Outraged, you promoted an anti-lynching campaign. Your pamphlet, The Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynching in the United States, was recently published.
Anna J. Cooper
Faction: Opposes Separate but Equal
You were born into slavery in 1858 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Your mother worked as a domestic servant for a wealthy lawyer who you suspect was your father. When you were ten years old, you attended St. Augustine’s Normal School and Collegiate Institute. You thrived there, immersing yourself in classical studies and helping to teach younger students. You married at the age of eighteen and were widowed two years later. Your status as a widow enabled you to continue teaching. You soon applied for admission to Oberlin College in 1881, writing directly to the President of Oberlin requesting admission, free tuition and a place to stay in exchange for a commitment to teach summers. You were accepted and followed a rigorous course of study, eventually earning a Bachelor of Arts in 1884 and then a Master of Arts in college teaching in 1887, both degrees from Oberlin. You do not object to the industrial education that Booker T. Washington encourages, and praised his work in your book, A Voice From the South. You do object to industrial education as the dominant form of education for African American youths.
John Wesley Gilbert
Faction: Opposes Separate but Equal
You were born in Hephzibah, Georgia in 1864. As a child you spent half of the year on a farm and the other half in public schools in Augusta. You were interested in the classics, and you learned languages easily. In 1884, you began your studies in the newly opened Paine Institute, later transferring to Brown University. Atypical for an African American, you pursued the classics as a scholar supported by a scholarship for you to live and study at the American School in Athens. While there, you relished the work you did at excavation sites throughout Greece and the Mediterranean Islands. You earned both an A.B. and A.M. degrees from Brown University. You returned to Augusta to teach the Greek Language and English at Paine Institute. You are actively committed to encouraging Negroes to pursue academic subjects, and to revel in the classics as you do. You believe in promoting goodwill among the races, but see that happening in ways that are different from those that Mr. Washington preaches.
William Frank Fonvieille
Faction: Opposes Separate but Equal
You were born in Salisbury, North Carolina in 1870. You graduated from Livingstone College, a fine private college for African Americans. You have recently started writing. Your article, published in the A.M.E. Zion Quarterly, about your summer riding the trains through the Jim Crow south has been read more widely than you imagined. The experience has opened your eyes to the harsh conditions imposed on African Americans orced to ride in railroad cars that are inferior to the cars for white folks. You strongly believe this is wrong but do not feel committed to applying yourself to civil rights activities. You respect Mr. Washington and are honored to be invited to meet with him and a select group before he is to deliver his big speech in at the Cotton States and International Exposition. From what you know of those attending, you guess that you will have most in common with the Tuskegee students. You guess that they might not be comfortable expressing their honest opinions either, but you acknowledge that anyone who read your article knows yours.
Fanny Frances Garrison Villard
Faction: Opposes Separate But Equal
You were born in 1844 in Boston, Massachusetts. Your father was William Lloyd Garrison the white abolitionist leader and editor/publisher of the Liberator. You attended a normal school before marrying Henry Villard, a German national who became wealthy as the publisher of the New York Evening Post and the Nation. He also served as president of Northern Pacific Railroad. You have been too busy raising your four children to pursue the civil rights and suffragist causes you support. It is an honor to be invited to the meeting with Booker T. Washington and others and are grateful for the encouragement from your husband.
You are a third year student at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. You were raised in Montgomery, Alabama. Your parents were born into slavery. Your grandmother on your mother’s side was a seamstress and made connections with sellers of fabrics and notions when she was sewing clothes for her masters. As a free woman, she tried to open a dress shop selling her own designs but she could not sell enough dresses to keep that business going. She followed that by establishing herself as a reseller of the the fabrics and notions she used to buy. You have her entrepreneurial drive and want to learn more about the inner workings of business and finances. You find that Tuskegee is lacking in the business courses that will help you succeed as a business owner. You would like to continue your studies elsewhere but there are not many options for African Americans. This has got you thinking about taking a stronger stand regarding civil rights, but you have great respect for Mr. Washington and want to believe in his approach to improving race relations. You are excited for the opportunity to join him and others in the upcoming meeting before he is to deliver what is sure to be a landmark speech at The Exposition in Atlanta.
You are just starting your studies at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. You were born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama and have had the good fortune to travel to New York occasionally to visit your uncle’s family. You have heard the stories about how your great uncle made his way to New York by escaping through through the “freedom train” and about the people he met along the way. You love to read and would like to foster that in others. Your goal is to be a teacher, but you aim to teach at the college level. You are aware of the northern African American professor, Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois, and are looking forward to meeting him in a few days at the meeting you were invited to attend before Mr. Washington gives a speech at the The Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta.
You were born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but you moved to Birmingham, Alabama as an infant to live with your grandmother, who raised you after your mother died in childbirth. Your father stayed in Chattanooga and became a preacher at a small church there. You spent much of your childhood helping out at your grandmother’s store. Customers noticed the shelves that you built and hired you to do carpentry at their homes. You earned enough money to pay your way to Tuskegee. While you were a student there, Booker T. Washington hired you to do repairs on the fences outside the gardens and followed your progress as a student for your remaining two years. Mr. Washington hired you to teach carpentry as soon as you graduated.