Another Brownsville and we will have everything.
JAMES A. COBB, 1908
WASHINGTON could have walked out on Theodore Roosevelt and the whole political game after the Brownsville affair. He had said often enough that politics was no career for an ambitious black man. But Brownsville and the President's dismissal of the soldiers after a hasty and unfair investigation highlighted instead Washington's lack of one essential attribute for the leader of an oppressed minority--the capacity for righteous public anger against injustice. Washington could and did work with dogged persistence against a great variety of racial injustices that white men perpetrated. He could chide or cajole with great skill and subtlety. But somewhere back in his life the power to lose his temper with a white man had been schooled out of him. And Brownsville, the grossest single racial injustice of that so-called Progressive Era, was just the occasion for loss of temper. Instead, Washington thought of "taking advantage of our disadvantages" politically, as he had always advocated economically. Roosevelt was the white boss, and he said the incident was closed. Washington accepted that decision, used it to strengthen his machine, and became more than ever the black boss.
In the petty politics of black patronage, Brownsville actually helped Washington. His black critics scorned the pursuit of office in an ad-