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What’s wrong with this tweet about black history from D.C. state education agency?

Booker T. Washington (National Park Service) Booker T. Washington (National Park Service)

What is wrong with the following tweet from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, the state education agency for the District of Columbia?

It was tweeted last Friday, and the problem was just raised by Erich Martel, a retired D.C. high school history teacher.

Here’s the tweet from OSSE:


Booker T. Washington was in fact NOT the first African American invited to the White House. Here’s an account from the White House Web site:

On October 16, 1901, Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) enjoyed dinner in the White House with his family and a few prominent Americans. There was nothing out of the ordinary except that one of his guests–the well-known educator Booker T. Washington–was a black man. It was not the first time an African American had called on a president. Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865) signed Sojourner Truth’s autograph book when she came to the White House. Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881) had Frederick Douglas at concerts of black performers. But Booker T. Washington, author of the famous book Up From Slavery, seems to be the first to be invited to a formal dinner. The next day, as usual, the newspapers published the names of the White House dinner guests (as they still do today). Many people were furious that Roosevelt would do such a thing. The president, only in office for one month, did not think there was anything wrong with having dinner with Washington, who he called “a good citizen and a good American.” But Roosevelt never invited an African-American to a White House dinner again. He would meet Washington again, and would sometimes invite black officials to White House receptions. But even a leader as bold as Roosevelt was afraid to anger an American public that was not yet ready to accept black equality. Roosevelt learned a lesson about the strength of the White House as symbol.

Got that, OSSE?

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.



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Valerie Strauss · February 19, 2013

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