An Infamous Dinner: Washington, Roosevelt and Race in America

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

In November 2008, as Sen. John McCain conceded the presidency to Barack Obama, McCain commented on the historic nature of Obama’s election with a reference to an infamous White House dinner: "A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt's invitation of Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters. America today is a world away from the cruel and frightful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States," McCain said.

The racial divides of turn-of-the-century America are well-known. Jim Crow ruled the South, and racial attitudes weren’t all that progressive in the North, either. There were, in effect, two Americas in 1901: A white America and a black America. While many African-Americans worked in white homes, black employees were certainly not welcome at white dinner tables.

With a single dinner invitation, President Roosevelt turned that notion on its head. A new book chronicles the lives of Roosevelt and his dinner guest, Booker T. Washington. Deborah Davis is the author of "Guest of Honor: Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt and the White House Dinner that Shocked a Nation."


Deborah Davis

Produced by:

Jillian Weinberger

Comments [2]


"America was outraged"
Is there a habit for the Democratic Party to place the shame their party historically engineered onto America as a whole?
"Jim Crow ruled the South"...and so did the Democratic Party machine.

May. 08 2012 11:02 AM
Bill Harris

Mr. Hockenberry,

Good work on your interview with Deborah Davis regarding her book Guest of Honor.
For another view of the incident, the times, the individuals involved I recommend my book Booker T & Them from Wayne State University Press. There is also an archived interview conducted by Craig Fahle which took place 1 March 2012 on his show on WDET.

Bill Harris

May. 08 2012 10:13 AM

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