Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in
The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
Segregationists threw a fit when President Theodore Roosevelt invited African American educator Booker T. Washington to dinner at the White House in 1901. They were even more outraged when close consultations between the two resulted in the hiring of more blacks to leading government positions. The Post of Nov. 28, 1902, featured Roosevelt's response to two of his critics (who were kept anonymous). An excerpt:
President Roosevelt has sent the following communication to a prominent citizen of Charleston, S.C.:"My Dear Sir: I am in receipt of your letter of November 10 and of one from Mr. -- -- , under date of November 11, in reference to the appointment of Dr. Crum as collector of the port of Charleston.
"In your letter you make certain specific charges against Dr. Crum, tending to show his unfitness in several respects for the office sought. These charges are entitled to the utmost consideration from me, and I shall go over them carefully before taking any action.
"After making these charges you add, as a further reason for opposition to him, that he is a colored man, and after reciting the misdeeds that followed carpetbag rule and negro domination in South Carolina, you say that `we have sworn never again to submit to the rule of the African, and such an appointment as that of Dr. Crum to any such office forces us to protest unanimously against this insult to the white blood;' and you add that you understood me to say that I would never force a negro on such a community as yours. Mr. -- -- -- -- puts the objection of color first, saying -- `First, he is a colored man, and that of itself ought to bar him from the office.'
"In view of these last statements I think I ought to make clear to you why I am concerned and pained by your making them and what my attitude is as regards all such appointments. How any one could have gained the idea that I had said I would not appoint reputable and upright colored men to office, when objection was made to them solely on account of their color, I confess I am wholly unable to understand. At the time of my visit to Charleston last spring I had made, and since that time I have made, a number of such appointments from several States in which there is a considerable colored population. ...
"I do not intend to appoint any unfit men to office. So far as I legitimately can I shall always endeavor to pay regard to the wishes and feelings of the people of each locality; but I cannot consent to take the position that the door of hope -- the door of opportunity -- be shut upon any man, no matter how worthy, purely upon the grounds of race or color. Such an attitude would, according to my convictions, be fundamentally wrong. If, as you hold, the great bulk of the colored people are not yet fit in point of character and influence to hold such positions, it seems to me that it is worth while putting a premium upon the effort among them to achieve the character and standing which will fit them. ...
"The question raised by you and Mr. -- -- -- in the statements to which I refer is simply whether it is to be declared that under no circumstances shall any man of color, no matter how upright and honest, no matter how good a citizen, no matter how fair in his dealings with all his fellows, be permitted to hold any office under our government. I certainly cannot assume such an attitude, and you must permit me to say that in my view it is an attitude no man should assume. ...
"It seems to me that it is a good thing from every standpoint to let the colored man know that if he showed in marked degree the qualities of good citizenship -- the qualities which in a white man we feel are entitled to reward -- then he will not be cut off from all hope of similar reward."
This series is in a book that can be purchased online at www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/2000/collectors.htm or by