Booker T. Washington and the Atlanta Compromise. By 1895, Booker T. Washington, who was born a slave, had risen to become the most powerful, and in some regards, respected black man in the country. Only 14 years earlier, in 1881, he established the Tuskegee Institute. So when he spoke at the Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition at the site of what is now Piedmont Park, it was going to be big. It was. But depending on what scholar you ask, the speech was either a groundbreaking look at the reality of race relations, or as W.E.B. Du Bois called it, the "Atlanta Compromise."