New York City (JFK+50) President Theodore Roosevelt, speaking before the New York City Republican Club 109 years ago today, February 13, 1905, cautioned that social and economic equality among the races should come "slowly" and that it should come not from government imposed changes but through a change in attitudes.
Shortly after TR became President, on October 16, 1901, he invited African-American leader Booker T. Washington* of Tuskegee Institute as his dinner guest.
While Mr. Washington had earlier been an official dinner guest of President McKinley, this was the first time a black person had been invited to a private dinner at the White House.
The invitation came as a shock around the nation particularly in the South where newspaper editorials expressed outrage.
At the Al Smith Dinner during the Presidential campaign of 2008, Republican nominee Senator John McCain said:
"There was a time when the mere invitation of an African American citizen to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage. Today, it is a world away from the crude and prideful bigotry of that time. And good riddance."
*Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) was born a slave in Hale's Ford, Virginia. He graduated from Hampton Normal & Agricultural School and Wayland Seminary. BTW was chosen the first leader of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, a position he held until his death.
"Guess Who Came To Dinner: From Booker T. Washington to Barack Obama" by Ariel Gonzales, www.huffingtonpost.com
"The Man Who Came to Dinner", Edwardian Promenade, 1/23/2009