“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Chattanooga in Hamilton County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)

Cast Down Your Buckets

Cast Down Your Buckets Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Darren Jefferson Clay, February 28, 2021
1. Cast Down Your Buckets Marker
A speech given by Booker T. Washington in 1895 at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia.

Mr. President, Gentlemen of the Board of Directors and Citizens:

One third of the population of the South is of the Negro race. No enterprise seeking the material, civil or moral welfare of this section can disregard this element of our population and reach the highest success. I must convey to you, Mr. President and Directors, and Secretaries, and masses of my race, when I say that in no way have the value and manhood of the American Negro been for fittingly and generously recognized, than by the managers of this magnificent exposition at every stage of its progress. It is a recognition that will do more to cement the friendship of the two races than any occurrence since the dawn of our freedom.

Not only this, but the opportunities here afforded will awaken among us a new era of industrial progress. Ignorant and inexperienced, it is not strange that in the first years of our new life we began at the top instead of the bottom, that a seat in Congress or the state legislature was more sought than

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real estate or industrial skill, that the political convention, of some teaching had more attractions than starting a dairy farm or truck garden.

A ship lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel. From the mast of the unfortunate vessel was seen the signal: "Water, water. We die of thirst.” The answer from the friendly vessel at once came back, "Cast down your bucket where you are.” A second time, the signal, “Water, send us water!” went up from the distressed vessel. And was answered: "Cast down your bucket where you are.” A third and fourth signal for water was answered: “Cast down your bucket where you are.” The captain of the distressed vessel, at last heeding the injunction, cast down his bucket and it came up full of fresh, sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon River. To those of my race who depend on bettering their condition in a foreign land, or who underestimate the importance of preservating friendly relations with the southern white man who is their next door neighbor, I would say: “Cast down your bucket where you are.” Cast it down, making friends in every manly way of the people of all races, by whom we are surrounded.

Cast it down in agriculture, mechanics, in commerce, in domestic service, and in the professions. And in this connection it is well to bear In mind that whatever

Cast Down Your Buckets Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Darren Jefferson Clay, February 28, 2021
2. Cast Down Your Buckets Marker
other sins the South may be called to bear, when it comes to business pure and simple, it is in the South that the Negro is given a man's chance in the commercial world, and in nothing is this Exposition more eloquent than in emphasizing this chance.

Our greatest danger is that in the great leap from slavery to freedom we may overlook the fact that the masses of us are to live by the productions of our hands, and fail to keep in mind that we shall prosper in proportion as we learn to dignify and glorify common labour, and put brains and skill into the common occupations of life; shall prosper in proportion as we learn to draw the line between the superficial and the substantial, the ornamental gewgaws of life and the useful. No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem. It is at the bottom of life we must begin, and not the top. Nor should we permit our grievances to overshadow our opportunities.

To those of the white race who look to the incoming of those of foreign birth and strange tongue and habits for the prosperity of the South, were I permitted, I would repeat what I say to my own race. "Cast down your bucket where you are.” Cast it down among the 8,000,000 Negroes whose habits you know, whose fidelity and love you have tested in days when to have proved treacherous [meant] the ruin of your firesides.


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it down among those people who have, without strikes and labour wars, tilled your fields, cleared your forests, builder your railroads and cities, and brought forth treasures from the bowels of the earth, and helped make possible this magnificent representation of the progress of the South. Casting down your bucket among my people, helping and encouraging them as you are doing on these grounds, and to education of head, hand, and heart, you will find that they will buy your surplus land, make blossom the waste places in your fields, and run your factories.

While doing this, you can be sure in the future, as in the past, that you and your families will be surrounded by the most patient, faithful, law-abiding, and unresentful people that the world has seen. As we have proved our loyalty to you in the past, in nursing your children, watching by the sick-bed of your mothers and fathers, and often following them with tear-dimmed eyes to their graves, so in the future, in our humble way, we shall stand by you with a devotion that no foreigner can approach, ready to lay down our lives, if need be, in defense of yours, interlacing our industrial, commercial, civil and religious life with yours in a way that shall make the interests of both races one. In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.

There is no defense or security for any of us except in the highest intelligence and development of all. If anywhere there are efforts tending to curtail the fullest growth of the Negro, let these efforts be turned into stimulating, encouraging and making him the most useful and intelligent citizen. Effort or means so invested will pay a thousand per cent interest. These efforts will be twice blessed-"Blessing him that gives and him that takes."

Nearly sixteen millions of hands will aid you [in] pulling the load upward, or they will pull against you the load downward. We shall constitute one third and much more of the ignorance and crime of the South or one third [of] its intelligence and progress, we shall contribute one third to the business and industrial prosperity of the South, or we shall prove a veritable body of death, stagnating, depressing, retarding every effort to advance the body politic.

The wisest among my race understand that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremest folly, and that progress in the enjoyment of all the privileges that will come to us, must be the result of severe and constant struggle, rather than of artificial forcing. No race that has anything to contribute to the markets of the world is long in any degree ostracized. It is important and right that all privileges of the law be ours, but it is vastly more important that we be prepared for the exercise of these privileges. The opportunity to earn a dollar in a factory just now is worth infinitely more than the opportunity to spend a dollar in an opera house."
Erected by Tennessee State Parks.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansAgricultureCommunicationsIndustry & Commerce. A significant historical year for this entry is 1895.
Location. 35° 6.605′ N, 85° 10.422′ W. Marker is in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in Hamilton County. Marker can be reached from Champion Road, 0.1 miles south of Blue Oak Drive, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 5620 Champion Rd, Chattanooga TN 37416, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. The Tuskegee Institute (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Life of Booker Taliaferro Washington (about 800 feet away); Booker Taliaferro Washington• (approx. ¼ mile away); The Civilian Conservation Corps and Booker T. Washington State Park (approx. ¼ mile away); Booker T. Washington School (approx. 1.7 miles away); Harrison Academy (approx. 1.9 miles away); Bonny Oaks School (approx. 2.6 miles away); Sherman Crosses the River (approx. 2.7 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Chattanooga.
Also see . . .  Booker T. Washington ( Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) was born into slavery and rose to become a leading African American intellectual of the 19 century, founding Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (Now Tuskegee University) in 1881 and the National Negro Business League two decades later. Washington advised Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. His infamous conflicts with Black leaders like W. E. B. Du Bois over segregation caused a stir, but today, he is remembered as the most influential African American speaker of his time. (source (Submitted on March 8, 2021, by Byron Hooks of Sandy Springs, Georgia.) 

Credits. This page was last revised on March 8, 2021. It was originally submitted on February 28, 2021, by Darren Jefferson Clay of Duluth, Georgia. This page has been viewed 333 times since then and 61 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on February 28, 2021, by Darren Jefferson Clay of Duluth, Georgia.   2. submitted on March 1, 2021, by Darren Jefferson Clay of Duluth, Georgia. • Devry Becker Jones was the editor who published this page.

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Jul. 24, 2024