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The speech was presented before a predominantly white audience at the Cotton States and International Exposition. That in itself was risky considering the history of blacks and the cotton industry. One of the themes of his speech was controversial to say the least. He called on blacks, about one third of the Southern population, to join the world of work while praising the South. He declared that the South (the bastion for slavery and everything ungodly done to blacks) was where blacks were given their first chance at work and skill development as opposed to the North which didn't afford these "opportunities".