Yes, this is almost nauseatingly deferential, and it is also untrue. Do we believe that the ex-slaves and children of slaves were "unresentful" about the cruelty and evil under which they had suffered in slavery?
Washington, Booker T. "The Atlanta Exposition Address." From Up From Slavery. Ed. ?. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. N.P.: N.P., N.D. 604-612.
However, if we note such deference, manipulative as it was meant to be, we must also note stronger statements such as the very first words of the speech: "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" (Washington 605). This is a practical, non-deferential appeal aimed at reasonable white Southerners, arguing that they will themselves benefit by opening doors to blacks. Washington appeals to blacks with reason, arguing that they should take advantage of the industrial revolution taking place. He issues a subtle warning which DuBois himself would perhaps be proud to claim as his own: "Nearly sixteen millions of hands will aid you in pulling the load upward, or they will pull against you the load downward" (Washington 606).
Rose is accurate, in any case, in saying that our most honest response to the "black protagonists" of the Reconstruction period is "ambivalent" (Rose 111). We might not agree with one or the other as too conservative or too radical, but their various positions are at least within reason and call for our sympathy at the very least.
Those who would see Washington as deferential to whites and nothing more are reading his work with a very selective eye. Certainly there are parts of his piece which today must bring us up short with their apparent excess of deference. For example, he calls on whites to help blacks fully join society at all levels, adding,