107 years ago, Booker T. Washington - a former slave and the founder of the Tuskegee Institute - delivered the Atlanta Compromise speech at Wooldridge Square.
Washington originally requested to speak at the capitol but the legislature denied his request. Instead Austin Mayor A.P. Wooldridge invited him to speak at the park. About 5,000 people filled the square eager to hear Washington speak of compromise urging free African Americans to stay in the south.
The historical moment lost in time as busy streets and high-rise buildings surround Wooldridge Square.
The Austin Downtown Alliance is working to preserve the city's history by hosting events at historical places and sharing their stories as a part of “Austin Our Story.”
Interpretive Planner Ted Eubanks said the project will help Austinites celebrate their history in an immersive way. "Wooldridge Square which this is probably is the most important single location for African American history in our city but if you look around there's not much said about that and we'd like to change that," Eubanks said.
They shared Washington’s with a reenactment of his speech at the Austin History Center on the exact same day September 29. Travis County Commisioner Precinct 1, Jeffrey Travillion said Washington’s story is one still reflected in today’s society.
"You look at an Austin mayor and he decided that this was something that needed to be heard so it talks about Austin's place in Texas even 100 years ago," said Travillion. "A lot of times our children think that everyone starts with the same opportunities we have to demonstrate that maybe we don't have the same opportunities but if we work together, together we can make this a better place to live."
Mayor Steve Adler declared September 29 Booker T. Washington Day to memorialize his work and keep his presence in Austin alive.