Guest of Honor: Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and the White House Dinner That Shocked a Nation Paperback – 5 Feb 2013
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"Provide[s] a panoramic view of America at the turn of the 20th century. . .Davis’s book is a marker of how far the country has come." --Washington Post
"A well-researched, highly readable treatment of an important era in racial relations, encapsulated in the meeting of two of the era’s most significant men."
--Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"This is history that excites. This is history that inspires. And this is history that will make readers sit up all night."
—Betty DeRamus, author of Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories from the Underground Railroad and Freedom by Any Means.
“In fluid prose and with clear respect for her subject matter, Davis paints a vivid picture of race relations at the turn of the 20th century – a story resonating with today’s fraught political and racial landscape.” – Publishers Weekly
“Valuable because it gives us not only a picture of how things have changed in the century since TR was President but also how much really hasn’t changed.”
--The Moderate Voice
“[Davis] does an excellent job of sketching the backgorund of this remarkable period." -- Wilmington Star News --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Deborah Davis is the author of Fabritius and the Goldfinch; Guest of Honor: Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and the White House Dinner That Shocked a Nation; Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X; Party of the Century; and Gilded. She formerly worked as an executive, story editor, and story analyst for several major film companies. For more information, visit www.WarholRoadTrip.com and follow along on Instagram @WarholRoadTrip. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Roosevelt was a rarity in his day in that, although believing in the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon, would give a high achiever his due regardless of race. Washington became a leader of his race through his advancement of education for former slaves.
Upon becoming president, TR needed eyes and ears in the South. Washington, a member of a race then heavily supportive of the Party of Lincoln, could be those eyes and ears. A working relationship with the president did wonders for Washington's prestige and his value to the Tuskegee Institute that he led.
Shortly after succeeding to the presidency, TR invited Washington to dinner to discuss federal appointments in the South. Roosevelt wanted Washington to recommend the best qualified men (no, women were not considered in those days) for job openings. The relationship was a productive, although controversial one. Although the dinner was neither publicized nor considered newsworthy by either participant it was picked up by the press and visions of a black man being a dinner guest at the White House drew storms of criticism, most violently from the South. The incident probably eliminated any chance TR may have had of cracking the Solid Democratic South.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This book is thoroughly readable and accessible (nothing 'dry' in this book), and captures a moment in history that few know about. It is amazing to read the similarities of the event to events today, in that the media played such a big role in the story, impacting these two men and their leadership roles starting the very next morning in some horrifying ways; something that we may tend to think is a more modern phenomenon. Fascinating of course, in that a black man is dining every night in the White House, so in other ways things have changed so much. There is an incredible array of reactions from many people at the time, black and white, that are thought-provoking and show how in other ways little has changed. The details of the family life and childhood experiences of the men are fascinating, including the importance of Lincoln in both men's early years. I have to say this book was difficult to put down since it is so engaging; I hope to read some of the author's other books after finding this one.
In 1901 the country woke up to a shock, the previous day 16 October, President Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to have dinner at the executive mansion (known today as the White House) with the First Family. Not only black, but a former slave, the invitation created fodder for news papers, vile cartoons and vulgar songs.
While Guest of Honor: Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and the White House Dinner That Shocked a Nation by Deborah Davis seems to be only about a dinner, it is actually much more. This well researched book touches on politics of the era as well as the fragile and difficult race relations after the American Civil War.
The book extensively goes into the events that shaped the breakthrough meal, starting with the end of the Civil War and short biographies of the two main players. It was striking to see how parallel the lives of two men, each at one end of the social spectrum (an ex slave and a privileged white) were eerily similar. Both men, close at age, got
married at approximately the same time, had kids at around the same time and suffer devastating losses.
This is well written, well researched and easy to read history. While the book captures a moment in history, most of the narrative concentrates on the events before it and why such a gesture created a huge splash. The contradictions between the impulsive Roosevelt and the cautious Washington are highlighted, but also how they
complimented each other and why they needed one another.
Abraham Lincoln, America's 16th President, is always in the background of this book. Both men admired Mr. Lincoln, his contributions, guts, political savvy and skill. While Mr. Lincoln is not in this book, as a person, his shadow is on almost every page. One of the amazing things I learned from this book, is that Roosevelt used Washington as a political advisor, not by name but by actions. The two men corresponded lengthily and the President implemented the advice Mr. Washington gave him about political appointments and the such.
The dinner on October 16, 1901 went smoothly, Mr. Washington came in the evening and the whole historical event almost went unnoticed. Once word was out, the South has erupted in intellectual and physical violence. A line has been crossed as the implication of an invitation to dinner had much more meaning than today's. Not only did whites admonish the event, but African-Americans as well. The notable W.E.B. Du Bois, also criticized saying the dinner created back relations which he abhorred.
I never heard of this dinner and I wouldn't be surprised if many others didn't as well. Ms. Davis mentions that she didn't know about this inciting event either until Senator John McCain (R-AZ) mentioned it in his 2008 Presidential election concession speech.
"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."
Ms. Davis takes the reader through each man's early years and accomplishments with a balanced look - showing both their positives and negatives. It is not an in depth biography of both men but there is more than enough background to get a solid picture of their life. Booker T. was born a slave but was ambitious and determined to take every advantage of the freedom that came after the Civil War. He was hard working and could seemingly find away around any problem.
Teddy Roosevelt was born into a rich, privileged family but was sickly as a child and bullied as a teenager. His father told him to deal with it and so he did. He was full of an irrepressible energy but his life was not all a bed of roses. These two men from such opposite ends of the social sphere were fated to meet and yes, work together in a time that did not respect the intelligence of African American. One simple dinner invitation would almost destroy them both.
It was utterly fascinating to see the reaction of the country to Booker T. Washington eating dinner at the White House. It would haunt Teddy Roosevelt throughout his presidency.
The book is very well written in alternating chapters detailing each man's life and then dealing with the aftermath of that fateful dinner. It was an interesting look back into the mind of America at the turn of the 20th century as society thought itself so progressive. An interesting comparison to happenings in today's world as well.
About two-thirds of "Guest of Honor" is used to describe Washington's and Roosevelt's lives in parallel lines. They were men of the same age, progressives, and as Davis points out, needed each other in their professional lives. It's a good primer for both men, especially if the reader hasn't much background about them. The dinner is then described and the fallout begins. Southern newspaper attacks on the president were numerous and some even blamed Washington, himself, for the decision to go dine with the president. But this controversy didn't keep the nation on its heels for a long time. As most "scandalous" events, it ran its course, though to be mentioned for sure when it was an upcoming political year.
Davis does well in talking about the social waves of the time but tying an entire book to one dinner just doesn't seem to pan out. It's an interesting read but not one of any major historical contribution.
"Guest of Honor" is a good historical review. Provocative parallelism of the lives and roles of two very different men impacted by the driving forces of time viewed from their unique perspectives resulting in profound leadership of each. This book includes enough historical documentation to make it believable infused with enough supposition to make it read as a novel rather than a chronology.
Of note, it was Booker T. Washington (1899), as well as many others before and since him that hoped for a black man as president, but who can count the number of men that dreamed of equality in this land. Racism is alive and well in America. Adaption has made it subtly useful, yet covert.
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