Theodore Roosevelt and His Time Shown in His Own Letters - Vol. 1

By Joseph Bucklin Bishop | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
THE BOOKER WASHINGTON INCIDENT

No act of Roosevelt during his entire career in the Presidency was more thoroughly characteristic or created a greater commotion throughout the land than his having Booker T. Washington, the negro educator and orator, as his guest at dinner in the White House on October 18, 1901. The news of it roused the South to fury, and even in the North there was a division of opinion in regard to the propriety of the act. That Roosevelt anticipated no such outburst of disapproval when he invited Mr. Washington, I have personal knowledge. I had been spending a day and a night with him in the White House and on the morning of the 18th he asked me if I could not stay over another night, saying that Booker Washington was coming to dinner and he would like to have me meet him. I replied that I was extremely sorry I could not, for there was no man in the country whom I respected more highly or whom I would more gladly meet, but it was imperative that I return to New York. Neither one of us alluded to Washington's color, and it did not occur to me for a moment that there could be any objection to his presence at the White House table. No intimation of doubt on the point came from the President, but in a letter which I shall quote he says he felt a moment's qualm. When the storm burst I wrote him expressing my astonishment, and in reply he said: "I really felt melancholy for the South at the way the Southerners behaved in the matter."

A few weeks later, November 8, 1901, he wrote a letter on the subject to Albion W. Tourgee, who was the United States Consul at Bordeaux, France. Mr. Tourgee was an

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