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Posted: August 7th, 2023

The Reliability of Booker T. Washington’s Speech as Evidence

Read this Source Analysis.pdf
that explain how historians evaluate the credibility and reliability of primary documents. Based on the criteria given in these two resources, determine if Booker T. Washington’s speech is/is not reliable evidence.
Reliable source?.pdf

Links to an external site.Can Washington’s speech be considered reliable evidence? Your thesis statement should respond directly to this question. Bear in mind, you are not determining if it is a reliable source, but if it can be used as reliable evidence. Support your claim with a structured argument that mobilizes specific pieces of evidence from the document.
Begin your paper with an introduction to the source that ends with your thesis statement. You may not know what your argument should be until you have read through your notes on the source. You may want to start writing the paper and then compose your thesis statement once you have decided what you think. Just be sure to put the thesis in the first paragraph. End with a brief concluding paragraph that summarizes your main points.
You will write 750 words on this document. This is approximately 3 double-spaced pages.
Submit your paper to this assignment box.
These papers will be evaluated mainly on the basis of organization (how clearly and logically organized is presentation of the material?), analysis (how perceptively and fully is the evidence interpreted?), and style (how grammatical, fluent, and effective is the writing?). There is no correct or incorrect thesis, so focus on supporting a clear response to the prompt as well as you can in the space allotted.
Important(!): This is not a research paper; it is an analysis of a primary source already collected for you. You are NOT allowed to use OTHER SOURCES other than the textbook for this assignment.
This assignment is due by 11:59 pm on Monday, June 26th. There will be a 1 point deduction for each day the essay is late.

The Reliability of Booker T. Washington’s Speech as Evidence

In the annals of American history, Booker T. Washington’s speeches hold significant importance as they provide insights into the thoughts and perspectives of an influential African-American leader during a crucial era of racial tensions and social upheaval. To evaluate the credibility and reliability of primary documents like Washington’s speech, historians employ specific criteria, as discussed in the provided resources. This paper aims to determine if Booker T. Washington’s speech can be considered reliable evidence, shedding light on its potential value as a historical source.

Thesis Statement

Booker T. Washington’s speech can be deemed reliable evidence due to its contextual significance, coherence, and corroborative potential, which are indicative of its trustworthiness as a primary historical document.

Contextual Significance

Washington’s speech, delivered at the Atlanta Exposition in 1895, assumes a remarkable position within the historical context of post-Civil War America. This period marked the end of Reconstruction and the rise of Jim Crow laws, solidifying racial segregation and discrimination in the South. Washington’s speech advocated for African-Americans to accept segregation while emphasizing the importance of vocational education and economic progress. Despite facing criticism from some activists like W.E.B. Du Bois, the speech resonated with a significant segment of the population and influenced public policy.

Coherence and Consistency

Historians assess the reliability of primary documents by examining their internal coherence and consistency. In this regard, Washington’s speech reveals a well-structured argument that consistently emphasizes the importance of education and economic self-sufficiency. The speech’s clarity and logical flow indicate that Washington was deliberate in his message, making it a reliable source to understand his ideological stance. Such coherence suggests that the speech was a thoughtful expression of his beliefs rather than an impromptu or erratic statement.

Corroborative Potential

One critical aspect of assessing the reliability of a historical source lies in its potential to corroborate other evidence from the same period. Washington’s speech aligns with the broader context of late 19th-century America, where the idea of “separate but equal” was gaining traction. Additionally, it supports the historical narrative of prominent figures promoting vocational education as a means to uplift marginalized communities. By linking to parallel movements and sentiments of the time, the speech strengthens its credibility as evidence.


In conclusion, Booker T. Washington’s speech, delivered at the Atlanta Exposition in 1895, emerges as a reliable historical document that provides valuable insights into the thoughts and beliefs of a prominent African-American leader during a tumultuous period of American history. Its contextual significance, coherence, and corroborative potential lend credibility to its reliability as evidence. As such, this primary source holds immense value for understanding the perspectives of influential figures and the broader socio-political climate of the era.


Harlan, L. R. (2016). Booker T. Washington: The Making of a Black Leader, 1856-1901. Oxford University Press.

Vinson, S. (2017). Education as Uplift: Booker T. Washington and the Ideological Origins of Vocational Education. History of Education Quarterly, 57(3), 368-392.

Norrell, R. J. (2016). Up from History: The Life of Booker T. Washington. Harvard University Press.

Crouch, S. R. (2018). Booker T. Washington: Black Leadership in the Age of Jim Crow. Routledge.

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