America’s Four United Republics
I have been very much interested in the many things that have been written and said about my dining with the President,” he tells Kaine. “I have not attempted to keep up with all the foolish and the false things however, that have been written. I am not at all disturbed about what has been said about the matter.”
In the 1904 letter Washington hesitates to accept another speaking invitation from the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, fearing it will stir controversy for T. R. ‘s reelection bid: “the political campaign will be at its height about that time, and it will be difficult for me to say anything that will not be taken up by one of the political parties and twisted into a wrong direction or made capital of.”
Meanwhile, Roosevelt on September 26, 1904 sent a letter and editorial to his friend and admirer, Lyman Abbott, editor of The Outlook and adds spirited comments on those who have accused him of racial bias in his appointments in southern states:
“Mind you, what I have done in Alabama I have done everywhere else in the South, and with all the venomous attacks upon me, the southerners who make the attacks cannot deny that I have elevated the public standard by by appointments in the South; and curiously enough, I have appointed fewer colored men than my predecessor. Have you noticed that Collier’s Weekly attacks me because I have gone too far in my policy of doing justice to the Negro while the Evening Post declines to support me because I have not gone far enough!…The Pittsburg Post’s statement is, of course, a pure lie. I have in no State constituted a board of white and negro politicians, to whom has been committed the control of the federal patronage. As a matter of fact, the only negro whom I have consulted about appointments in the South has been Booker Washington. It does seem to me that this issue is far more than merely political. If a man like Carl Schurz had one particle of intellectual and political honesty in his make-up, he could not support the Democrats in this campaign in view of their attitude to the South of his own recent utterances on this very question.”
Washington, on the other hand, wanted to maintain his status as the most prominent black leader, confidante of tycoons and Presidents, but insisted on being an apolitical figure. Stressing economic uplift instead of political agitation, he downplayed racist attacks in favor of emphasizing empowerment and social acceptance. The dinner with Roosevelt was a landmark achievement in that respect. T. R. admirably refused to apologize for the invitation, but he never repeated the episode. Neither Washington nor any other black American dined at the White House for the remainder of his term. He did, however, continue to consult Washington privately on racial and Southern politics.
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