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Guest of Honor: Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and the White House Dinner That Shocked a Nation

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In this revealing social history, one remarkable White House dinner becomes a lens through which to examine race, politics, and the lives and legacies of two of America’s most iconic figures. In 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to have dinner at the executive mansion with the First Family. The next morning, news that the president had dined In this revealing social history, one remarkable White House dinner becomes a lens through which to examine race, politics, and the lives and legacies of two of America’s most iconic figures. In 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to have dinner at the executive mansion with the First Family. The next morning, news that the president had dined with a black man—and former slave—sent shock waves through the nation. Although African Americans had helped build the White House and had worked for most of the presidents, not a single one had ever been invited to dine there. Fueled by inflammatory newspaper articles, political cartoons, and even vulgar songs, the scandal escalated and threatened to topple two of America’s greatest men. In this smart, accessible narrative, one seemingly ordinary dinner becomes a window onto post–Civil War American history and politics, and onto the lives of two dynamic men whose experiences and philosophies connect in unexpected ways. Deborah Davis also introduces dozens of other fascinating figures who have previously occupied the margins and footnotes of history, creating a lively and vastly entertaining book that reconfirms her place as one of our most talented popular historians.


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In this revealing social history, one remarkable White House dinner becomes a lens through which to examine race, politics, and the lives and legacies of two of America’s most iconic figures. In 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to have dinner at the executive mansion with the First Family. The next morning, news that the president had dined In this revealing social history, one remarkable White House dinner becomes a lens through which to examine race, politics, and the lives and legacies of two of America’s most iconic figures. In 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to have dinner at the executive mansion with the First Family. The next morning, news that the president had dined with a black man—and former slave—sent shock waves through the nation. Although African Americans had helped build the White House and had worked for most of the presidents, not a single one had ever been invited to dine there. Fueled by inflammatory newspaper articles, political cartoons, and even vulgar songs, the scandal escalated and threatened to topple two of America’s greatest men. In this smart, accessible narrative, one seemingly ordinary dinner becomes a window onto post–Civil War American history and politics, and onto the lives of two dynamic men whose experiences and philosophies connect in unexpected ways. Deborah Davis also introduces dozens of other fascinating figures who have previously occupied the margins and footnotes of history, creating a lively and vastly entertaining book that reconfirms her place as one of our most talented popular historians.

30 review for Guest of Honor: Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and the White House Dinner That Shocked a Nation

  1. 4 out of 5

    Patty

    This is one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read. It's one of the best books I have ever read. It's a truly fascinating look back in our history at a time period when slavery had ended but African Americans were by no means welcome in society, especially in the South. It follows the lives of Teddy Roosevelt and Booker T. Washington - both well known to history, but I had no idea how intertwined and parallel their lives were despite such disparate beginnings. Ms. Davis takes the reader This is one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read. It's one of the best books I have ever read. It's a truly fascinating look back in our history at a time period when slavery had ended but African Americans were by no means welcome in society, especially in the South. It follows the lives of Teddy Roosevelt and Booker T. Washington - both well known to history, but I had no idea how intertwined and parallel their lives were despite such disparate beginnings. 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.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Zohar - ManOfLaBook.com

    Guest of Honor: Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and the White House Dinner That Shocked a Nation by Deborah Davis is a non-fiction book which tells of the events leading and resulting of a simple dinner in which President Theodore Roosevelt dined with Book T. Washington. 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 Fam Guest of Honor: Booker T. Wash­ing­ton, Theodore Roo­sevelt, and the White House Din­ner That Shocked a Nation by Deb­o­rah Davis is a non-fiction book which tells of the events lead­ing and result­ing of a sim­ple din­ner in which Pres­i­dent Theodore Roo­sevelt dined with Book T. Washington. 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." For More Reviews and Bookish Posts Please Visit: http://www.ManOfLaBook.com

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ellen Pierson

    Guest of Honor provides an in-depth look at a relatively obscure moment in U.S. history – the 1901 invitation that TR issued to Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House. The invitation represented a seemingly genuine good faith effort on TR’s part to reach out to Washington., but TR ultimately proved unprepared to weather the impassioned backlash that the dinner provoked with a steadfast approach to promoting racial equality. Davis even suggests that subsequent renovations to the White Guest of Honor provides an in-depth look at a relatively obscure moment in U.S. history – the 1901 invitation that TR issued to Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House. The invitation represented a seemingly genuine good faith effort on TR’s part to reach out to Washington., but TR ultimately proved unprepared to weather the impassioned backlash that the dinner provoked with a steadfast approach to promoting racial equality. Davis even suggests that subsequent renovations to the White House may have been to some degree calculated to help white America forget that a black man had once sat down with the president and his family in the first dining room. I really appreciated Guest of Honor as a way to learn more about Booker T. Davis makes an important point about Washington’s “image problem” in historical interpretations of his life and work. It was not news to me that in some circles a defense of Washington’s essentially strategic vision for advancing the cause of the African American community of his day has come to be seen as something akin to an apologist stance on Vichy France. People kinda forget that the late nineteenth and early twentieth century years were very very bad ones for black Americans. Lynchings and violent assaults were extremely commonplace, while economic and educational opportunities were practically nonexistent. Against this backdrop of acute hostility, Booker T. fought his way up from abject poverty by making the pragmatic and difficult choices of a survivor. He dedicated his life to helping others make similar journeys and he never stopped working for a better future. The more radical-sounding message of W.E.B. Dubois has tended to resonate more with people of post-civil rights sensibilities. I appreciate DuBois for his many contributions to American society and history – especially for his work to uncover the real history of Reconstruction at a time when it was represented in a truly appalling way – but his vision was also elitist. His circumstances were very different from those of most African Americans at that time and his rhetoric didn’t offer a way for average people to improve their lot. If you weren’t part of the “talented tenth” (or even if you were), you could demand your rights till the cows came home, but that wasn’t going to provide the food, shelter, or physical security that amounted to Booker T.’s central focus. In the end, I don’t think the belief systems of these two exceptional men were as mutually exclusive as it has been convenient to portray them in basic history classes (like the ones I teach), but I know I’m glad that writers are taking another look at Booker T. Washington. I definitely recommend this book!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    This book may be the most deserving of the term "Pop History" of any book I've read. I enjoyed it thoroughly, but it's hard to avoid sensing that issues are being glossed over so shallowly as to risk being misinformed. There is a lengthy contrasting of the childhoods of the two men, which is pitched as a way to set the scene for readers who are less familiar with them, but which is done very much with the eye of setting up a cinematic contrast between their personalities and personal lives. One This book may be the most deserving of the term "Pop History" of any book I've read. I enjoyed it thoroughly, but it's hard to avoid sensing that issues are being glossed over so shallowly as to risk being misinformed. There is a lengthy contrasting of the childhoods of the two men, which is pitched as a way to set the scene for readers who are less familiar with them, but which is done very much with the eye of setting up a cinematic contrast between their personalities and personal lives. One can't help but feel that a reader would have been better served if more attention had been paid to the role these men played in the America of their time, and the role they have played in American history. In particular, I was left with the consistent impression that the author was uncomfortable with really looking into the racial questions that came up. Booker T. Washington's complicated role in civil rights history is largely glossed over, aside from an impassioned section at the very end that blames W.E.B. Du Bois for organizing a conspiracy among historians to destroy the reputation of a great man. I'd certainly be willing to read an impassioned defense of Booker T. Washington in that context, but to do so, it would be necessary to address the substance of that criticism, which this book doesn't really do. In addition, Theodore Roosevelt, for all that the idea of the book is that he was a brave if impetuous man, comes across in the narrative as a hapless fool, who somehow managed to become president, but it's not entirely clear how. It's an enjoyable read, and it's fascinating to learn about the dinner and appalling to learn about the immediate reaction to the dinner. However, as history, it's not very good.

  5. 4 out of 5

    OOSA

    Invidious "Guest of Honor: Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and the White House Dinner That Shocked a Nation" by Deborah Davis deals with respect and friendship that result when the status quo of social conscience is ignored. In a time when racism dictated behavior and set the parameters of social norms, Theodore Roosevelt dared to extend an invitation to Booker T. Washington out of expedience which resulted in both men having to pay a cost that neither could afford nor fail to afford. Invidious "Guest of Honor: Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and the White House Dinner That Shocked a Nation" by Deborah Davis deals with respect and friendship that result when the status quo of social conscience is ignored. In a time when racism dictated behavior and set the parameters of social norms, Theodore Roosevelt dared to extend an invitation to Booker T. Washington out of expedience which resulted in both men having to pay a cost that neither could afford nor fail to afford. Simply, another conundrum that comes with public life and the inability to be everything to everybody. "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. Reviewed by: Gail

  6. 4 out of 5

    mari

    Guest of Honor gives a great look into the lives of Booker T. Washington and Theodore Roosevelt way before they become the two extraordinary men sitting together at dinner. The reader gets a glimpse of both Booker's and TR's childhoods and the affect of Emancipation and the assassination of Lincoln on their lives. Then we get to read about the events leading up to their dinner and the backlash that happens after. Davis' research is very thorough and it is very evident that she enjoyed learning Guest of Honor gives a great look into the lives of Booker T. Washington and Theodore Roosevelt way before they become the two extraordinary men sitting together at dinner. The reader gets a glimpse of both Booker's and TR's childhoods and the affect of Emancipation and the assassination of Lincoln on their lives. Then we get to read about the events leading up to their dinner and the backlash that happens after. Davis' research is very thorough and it is very evident that she enjoyed learning and writing about these two very interesting men. She has taken great care to make this book accessible to all readers interested in learning more about this small but significant even on our history. It's written in a very readable narrative that pulls you in to their story. If you like history you will enjoy this book and even if you don't regularly read histories this one will most certainly keep you reading despite that.

  7. 4 out of 5

    ☯Emily

    This is a fascinating book about Theodore Roosevelt and Booker T. Washington. Although one was born a slave and the other in wealth and sophistication, they had much in common. Booker T. became an advisor to TR when he was President. One evening, Booker came to the White House for dinner. The Southern press exploded in anger that a black man had "contaminated" the White House. The South did not want to see social equality between the races. The dinner and its consequences were only a small part This is a fascinating book about Theodore Roosevelt and Booker T. Washington. Although one was born a slave and the other in wealth and sophistication, they had much in common. Booker T. became an advisor to TR when he was President. One evening, Booker came to the White House for dinner. The Southern press exploded in anger that a black man had "contaminated" the White House. The South did not want to see social equality between the races. The dinner and its consequences were only a small part of the book. The author gives alternating histories of Washington and Roosevelt, revealing some of the similarities in their lives. I appreciated the glimpses of the other black men and women who were succeeding in a world that did not want them to succeed. She also revealed the conflict between Washington and du Bois. I wonder how much could have been accomplished if these two men could have found a way to work together. This book is easy to read and very enjoyable.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Douglas Graney

    Quite the interesting relationship Booker T. Washington and Theodore Roosevelt had. Before and after the White House dinner those two were allies in the cause of improving race relations though T.R. had one notable exception to that. This a quick, enlightening read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Teji

    Booker T. Washington was a “race” advisor to Theodore Roosevelt (much as Frederick Douglass had been advisor to Lincoln). Unlike many presidents, Roosevelt routinely conducted business meetings during meals. Thus it was that Roosevelt scheduled Washington to meet with him at the White House for dinner on October 16, 1901, to provide consultation on some matters Roosevelt was considering—and unwittingly made Washington the first African-American to dine in the White House. In exploring the events Booker T. Washington was a “race” advisor to Theodore Roosevelt (much as Frederick Douglass had been advisor to Lincoln). Unlike many presidents, Roosevelt routinely conducted business meetings during meals. Thus it was that Roosevelt scheduled Washington to meet with him at the White House for dinner on October 16, 1901, to provide consultation on some matters Roosevelt was considering—and unwittingly made Washington the first African-American to dine in the White House. In exploring the events leading up to, and the after-effects of, that dinner, the author provides an overview of the lives and careers of both men and draws some interesting parallels. I had not previously heard that Washington was the first African-American to dine in the White House nor of the resulting firestorm it ignited. The book is well researched and the writing is accessible. Aside from the dinner itself, there are lots of interesting tidbits that I didn’t know about both men; for example, Roosevelt was the first president to set aside indoor space for the press corp. There are times when, the author delves too deep into discussing other historical events that happened to be occurring during the same time period but that are only peripherally related to the two main characters. Also, in making the writing accessible, she uses a narrative device (whereby she ascribes thoughts and feelings to the men when it is not clear that is what they were thinking at that particular moment) that I think diminishes the history and veers toward historical fiction. Overall: Recommended-- particularly for history buffs. Quotes (view spoiler)[ “Though blacks had built the White House, worked for most of the presidents (including Roosevelt), performed at the chief executive's musical recitals, and held political office, not a single African American had ever been invited there to dine. The event, unprecedented in White House history, provoked inflammatory newspaper articles, political cartoons, fire-and-brimstone speeches, even vulgar songs. The scandal escalated to the point where this single dinner ignited a storm of controversy, divided the country, and threatened to topple two of America's greatest men” -Introduction “Nonetheless, he was the architect of a practical plan for blacks to become educated, enlightened, and self-sufficient. In his own way, he was the bridge between slavery and the civil rights movement.” - Introduction “Self-help was the core of his philosophy…After emancipation, many blacks thought that access to ‘big books’ and ‘high-sounding subjects’ such as Latin, Greek, and banking was the most expedient route to equality and a better life. They disdained programs that promoted technical or remedial courses, and public schools (even rural, one-room schoolhouses) offered a stripped-down, classical curriculum to former slaves who had barely learned to read. Booker T. knew from experience that these fledgling students had to master more practical subjects first… Booker T. was so single-minded in his pursuit of self-sufficiency…When Tuskegee needed a new building and there was not enough money to pay or one, Booker T. added brick making to the school curriculum. His plan was that students would make their own bricks, then use them to build their own building…When the dormitories needed mattresses the students made those, too. At Tuskegee, whatever could be homemade was, because Booker T. knew that independence was the real key to freedom.” -Brick by Brick “The other prominent African American to appear with Booker T. on the Boston stage that afternoon was W. E. B. Du Bois, a man famous for being an intellectual at a time when many people believed that blacks were intellectually inferior. Even as a child, Du Bois made it his mission to prove that he was superior, not equal, to the whites around him.” -Rising Stars “There was one funny side note to Booker T.'s fame and success. Even though he received more respect than most African Americans, some people were nonetheless confused as to how to treat an accomplished black man. One southern gentleman swore that he considered Booker T. a great man, yet could never break the unwritten rule of the South and address a ‘colored’ man, however distinguished, as ‘Mr. Washington.’ He admitted that he was greatly relieved when Harvard awarded Booker T. his honorary doctorate because he could call him ‘Dr. Washington,’ and the ‘Mr.’ problem was solved.” -Pride and Prejudice “Alice Lee Roosevelt was a handful. A family friend described the rebellious seventeen-year-old as ‘a young wild animal who had been put in good clothes.’ ” -Fathers and Daughters “The respected educator had become the object of ridicule and derision. ‘That dinner,’ according to the Argus, ‘has undone the work of his life, and the best thing he can do is move North.’ It was such a shame, agreed the Atlanta Constitution. ‘Roosevelt has ruined the best negro in Alabama.’ Clearly the dinner wasn’t just a dinner: it was a Pandora's box of racism that, once opened, was impossible to close. The dreaded specter of social equality had reared its head, and Southerners were so terrified they attacked from every angle… Mr. Dooley believed that TR made a mistake by expressing his private values in a public space, although he saw humor in the condemnation coming from the South. Thousands of men who wouldn't have voted for him under any circumstances has declared that under no circumstances would they vote for him now.’ ” -A Big Stink “An amusing incident occurred when Booker T. was on a speaking tour of Florida and he ran into an old white Southerner at train station. The man greeted him with great respect saying, ‘Suh, I am glad to meet you…I think, suh, you're the greatest man in America.’ ‘Oh no,’ demurred Booker T. He was surprised and flattered by the compliment, but he immediately suggested that President Roosevelt was the better man. ‘No, suh’” was the rapid retort. ‘Not by a jugful; I used to think so, but since he invited you to dinner I think he's a . . . Scoundrel!’ The Baltimore Herald found the anecdote hilarious and printed a version of the encounter. Booker T. sent it to TR with a note explaining, ‘This is a true story.’ TR howled when he read it and immediately wrote back to Booker T., saying, ‘I think that is one of the most delightful things I have ever read. It is almost too good to believe. What a splendid confusion of ideas it does show!’ -Undercover “But, brilliant as he was, Du Bois oversimplified and perhaps deliberately misrepresented his rival's philosophy. Booker T. focused on African Americans who were at the ‘bottom’ because he believed it was more important for an emerging people to learn healthy practices and how to support themselves than to speak French or read Latin. But, Booker T. never imposed limitations on blacks who aspired to accomplish more, and Du Bois knew that. The two men had solid ideological differences: Booker T. advocated patience, hard work, and even compromise in the interests of survival, while Du Bois called for activism and agitation at all costs. Both approaches were valid, and the men might have been twice as effective in building a future for African Americans if they had found a way to work together, with Booker T. leading blacks out of slavery and Du Bois ushering them into the new century… By not taking a stand on Brownsville, and by not publicly opposing TR, he left himself vulnerable to the criticism Du Bois and other detractors had been making for quite some time.” -Blindsided “Du Bois did not need to discredit a dead man to validate his more militant solutions to the race problem. Booker T.’s cautious walk before you run philosophies were more meaningful to African Americans who experienced slavery than they were to those who never witnessed it. It was time for blacks to follow Du Bois, to fight the new indignities of segregation with new strategies and new intensity.” -Eulogies (hide spoiler)]

  10. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    My granddaughter, son and I were taking a "Hop on Hop Off" bus in New York during the crowded season between Christmas and New Year's day looking for a stop which would be interesting and non-crowded. We got off and walked to the Theodore Roosevelt boyhood home, a free historical attraction run by the National Park Service. https://www.nps.gov/thrb/index.htm We found we had to sign up for a tour of the family area but while we were waiting, we could peruse the lower level photos, sayings and My granddaughter, son and I were taking a "Hop on Hop Off" bus in New York during the crowded season between Christmas and New Year's day looking for a stop which would be interesting and non-crowded. We got off and walked to the Theodore Roosevelt boyhood home, a free historical attraction run by the National Park Service. https://www.nps.gov/thrb/index.htm We found we had to sign up for a tour of the family area but while we were waiting, we could peruse the lower level photos, sayings and history regarding "TR". The words and sayings of "Teddy" were extremely apt and should be repeated today. So much so that I became enthused about learning more about this president that spanned the 1800s to 1900s. I wanted to read something truthful but written as an easy quick read for an introduction before going deeper into his life. This is the perfect vehicle to do that. It gives historical context of two well known men who grew up simultaneously: Theodore Roosevelt, white and privileged but sickly as a child but pumped up to be a man and our President, and Booker T. Washington, black, born a slave, walked 400 miles to get an education, became a famous speaker and fund raiser and provided education to many others. In our Obama years, it is so inconceivable that a white president inviting a famous black educator to his family dinner could spark so much hate and vile behavior. Of course, I hope the next four years does not bring us back to such behavior. This is a story of our civilized years, and yet, TR was known to surprise the country by saying things off the cuff that shocked people like at least one politician today. This is a good read and especially good follow-up to a New York tourist visit. Recommend for those who make the visit who are 12 and older to introduce them to the history of over a century ago.

  11. 4 out of 5

    April Helms

    Davis looks at a piece of history that most people probably don't know about. One fateful evening, Theodore Roosevelt, the new president of the United States, invited Booker T. Washington to dinner with his family and a couple of others. Now, to the modern reader, this might not seem to be a big deal. After all, Roosevelt was a young, dynamic president brimming with ideas, inviting one of his advisers, Washington, who was among the most influential African Americans of his day and the founder of Davis looks at a piece of history that most people probably don't know about. One fateful evening, Theodore Roosevelt, the new president of the United States, invited Booker T. Washington to dinner with his family and a couple of others. Now, to the modern reader, this might not seem to be a big deal. After all, Roosevelt was a young, dynamic president brimming with ideas, inviting one of his advisers, Washington, who was among the most influential African Americans of his day and the founder of the Tuskegee Institute. No big deal, right? But this is the early 1900s, what should have been an innocuous invitation for a business dinner turned into a scandal that impacted both men. There were many who thought the dinner was a great step in positive racial relations. There were, however, a lot of loud critics -- both black and white -- of both men who thought the invitation breached a social line that should never have been crossed. The dinner spawned nasty political cartoons and songs, political maneuverings and gossip for several years afterwards. The dinner itself isn't covered until the final few chapters, with much of the book leading up to the event, including information on each man's background, the political climate and well-known contemporaries of the two men. History buffs should definitely add this one to their to-read list. I might have to check out Davis's other books as well.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    Our book group chose Guest of Honor as our last read this season. The event, President Theodore Roosevelt inviting Booker T. Washington to dine at The White House, seemed monumental at the time but none of us had heard much about it. Author, Deborah Davis gives background to both personalities and leads us up and through what I called as stunning as ”The Shot Heard Round the World”. Most of the group seemed satisfied with the history presented though I could have stood a bit more. Some members Our book group chose Guest of Honor as our last read this season. The event, President Theodore Roosevelt inviting Booker T. Washington to dine at The White House, seemed monumental at the time but none of us had heard much about it. Author, Deborah Davis gives background to both personalities and leads us up and through what I called as stunning as ”The Shot Heard Round the World”. Most of the group seemed satisfied with the history presented though I could have stood a bit more. Some members thought they would have like a better analysis of the impact of the dinner in future years and race relations. We also wondered whether Roosevelt planned the dinner with controversy in mind or if this was just another loose cannon decision of his. We decided it was a calculated move on his part but that it might have back-fired. Whether or not it was helpful or not was not decided. We tried to come up with something that would parallel The Dinner in today’s world. Can you think of anything? I always enjoy a book that sheds light on past events, particularly what seems like a small thing that can have lasting ramifications. I think we all learned something from reading the book and that is was a good choice for discussion.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mark Fallon

    In November 1901, Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States, asked one of his trusted advisors, Booker T. Washington to dinner at the White House. They had much to discuss, and dinner would be a good start to the work ahead. However, less than 40 years after the Civil War, many Americans weren't ready to see an African-American be a formal guest at the White House. The aftermath lasted for years, and impacted both men significantly. Davis wonderfully weaves together the histories of these In November 1901, Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States, asked one of his trusted advisors, Booker T. Washington to dinner at the White House. They had much to discuss, and dinner would be a good start to the work ahead. However, less than 40 years after the Civil War, many Americans weren't ready to see an African-American be a formal guest at the White House. The aftermath lasted for years, and impacted both men significantly. Davis wonderfully weaves together the histories of these two great men - contrasting their backgrounds (one born a slave, one born wealthy) and comparing their similarities (dynamic speakers who overcame challenges, including the heartbreaking losses of their wives). Reading the racist diatribes and the criticisms from the left and the right of the last century, and comparing them to remarks about our current president and his dinner guests, demonstrates how much hadn't changed in 110 years.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn

    A fairly dry accounting of an important slice of history, but filled with fascinating facts and little known incidents. I liked Davis's compare and contrast method with her two characters who, interestingly, had much in common. That, in itself, was a testimony to the bond between people that has no racial overtones. Washington and Roosevelt were vastly different people who had similar personal experiences that forged their lives. There were some interesting political machinations which resounded A fairly dry accounting of an important slice of history, but filled with fascinating facts and little known incidents. I liked Davis's compare and contrast method with her two characters who, interestingly, had much in common. That, in itself, was a testimony to the bond between people that has no racial overtones. Washington and Roosevelt were vastly different people who had similar personal experiences that forged their lives. There were some interesting political machinations which resounded loud and clear in this particular year's presidential race -- I guess history keeps repeating itself. I was not crazy about the writing style -- but it did not keep me from enjoying this fascinating book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Shirla Mcqueen

    I had not heard of Booker T's invitation to dine at the White House until Senator McCain's concession speech in 2008. I was, thus, anxious to read this book to learn more about the controversy. I am sorry to say that, for me, the book did not live up to its billing. The book was more of a biographical account of the lives of Theodore Roosevelt and Booker T. Washington. The invitation in question was but a very small part of the story. This, when coupled with the fact that I did not find the I had not heard of Booker T's invitation to dine at the White House until Senator McCain's concession speech in 2008. I was, thus, anxious to read this book to learn more about the controversy. I am sorry to say that, for me, the book did not live up to its billing. The book was more of a biographical account of the lives of Theodore Roosevelt and Booker T. Washington. The invitation in question was but a very small part of the story. This, when coupled with the fact that I did not find the writing terribly compelling, led me to question many times whether I would even finish the book. I did, and I am glad I did, but I will not be recommending this book to others.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Phillis

    Easy read. Gained historical facts and insights about Booker T. Washington and Theodore Roosevelt that would otherwise be pushed aside. I read all types of books and now that I've finished Guest of Honor, I'm going to read some "light trash", then I'll probably go to a biography or a mystery. Guest of Honor should be on many shelves. Booker T. Washington was glossed over when I was in school and this book has encouraged me to delve more into the history of names mentioned and associated with the Easy read. Gained historical facts and insights about Booker T. Washington and Theodore Roosevelt that would otherwise be pushed aside. I read all types of books and now that I've finished Guest of Honor, I'm going to read some "light trash", then I'll probably go to a biography or a mystery. Guest of Honor should be on many shelves. Booker T. Washington was glossed over when I was in school and this book has encouraged me to delve more into the history of names mentioned and associated with the activities of this time. I'm curious to know about their place in history. I'm now a fan of Deborah Davis and will read other works.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Angie

    Very interesting. The times and issues change, but politics remain the same.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Roy Draa

    Phenomenal look at two giants. I am astounded at how historians have treated Booker T prior to this work. As an historian and former professor, I enjoyed this book immensely. It was humbling that I knew so little regarding these men and their partnership in turn of the century race relations. Word of warning, the author pulls no punches. You will read every disgustingly, gut-wrenching, racial epithet from primary sources (Democrat politicians, journalists, songs, etc). I was incredulous. Can Phenomenal look at two giants. I am astounded at how historians have treated Booker T prior to this work. As an historian and former professor, I enjoyed this book immensely. It was humbling that I knew so little regarding these men and their partnership in turn of the century race relations. Word of warning, the author pulls no punches. You will read every disgustingly, gut-wrenching, racial epithet from primary sources (Democrat politicians, journalists, songs, etc). I was incredulous. Can this have ever been us? A must-read for every American.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jill Martin

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book chronicles the lives of Teddy Roosevelt and Booker T. Washington and how their lives sometimes paralleled each other and how they were so different from birth to death. Washington became an advisor and good friend to Roosevelt and they neither saw anything wrong with Washington having dinner with Teddy and his family in their family quarters. Until they both died, this controversy kept popping up and, mostly, to their detriment. The history was quite fascinating and I learned so much This book chronicles the lives of Teddy Roosevelt and Booker T. Washington and how their lives sometimes paralleled each other and how they were so different from birth to death. Washington became an advisor and good friend to Roosevelt and they neither saw anything wrong with Washington having dinner with Teddy and his family in their family quarters. Until they both died, this controversy kept popping up and, mostly, to their detriment. The history was quite fascinating and I learned so much about both men. Enjoyed it immensely. 10 Stars (5.4 to 5.20.18 )

  20. 5 out of 5

    Just A. Bean

    A lot of this book felt like filler, going into eating habits of past presidents and various largely unrelated people, and the first third or so was pretty basic biography (probably more interesting to someone who had not just read Up from Slavery). However, once it hit the relationship between Washington and Roosevelt, it picked up quickly. There were lots of great original quotes from news media at the time, and details of the complicated interaction of race and celebrity. I'm glad I read it so A lot of this book felt like filler, going into eating habits of past presidents and various largely unrelated people, and the first third or so was pretty basic biography (probably more interesting to someone who had not just read Up from Slavery). However, once it hit the relationship between Washington and Roosevelt, it picked up quickly. There were lots of great original quotes from news media at the time, and details of the complicated interaction of race and celebrity. I'm glad I read it so close to Washington's own book, as it presents him in a very different light than what was essential a sales pitch for his school. He was a lot more politically involved than he liked people to think. Of course being a Washington book, it can't help but take the odd shot at Du Bois (no one seems to like both), and was more in favour of Roosevelt than I've seen in other places.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Pauline

    I loved what I learned in this book about both Booker T Washington and Theodore Roosevelt. This was a read aloud (those who know us, know we read aloud to each other) and I found at times it was a difficult read. There were so many “rabbit trails” albeit, very interesting ones, it made reading a bit halting as I changed focus from what I was reading about to a totally new topic. I have the feeling I wouldn’t feel that way if I’d just read it like most do—silently. I love learning through reading I loved what I learned in this book about both Booker T Washington and Theodore Roosevelt. This was a read aloud (those who know us, know we read aloud to each other) and I found at times it was a difficult read. There were so many “rabbit trails” albeit, very interesting ones, it made reading a bit halting as I changed focus from what I was reading about to a totally new topic. I have the feeling I wouldn’t feel that way if I’d just read it like most do—silently. I love learning through reading and have loved Booker T Washington since I was young. An interesting history of race relations post civil war. Hats off to author, Deborah Davis, for some superb research.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Maerten-Moore

    Davis tells the life stories of both Booker T. Washington and Theodore Roosevelt throughout the book. The story of the diner that "shocked a nation" is just a minor part in the book. Their individual histories and how their lives came to intersect made for an interesting read, er, listen.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ejs

    I loved this book! It parallels the lives of Booker T. Washington and TR. It shows the importance of Booker T. in that administration (as long as he didn't have dinner with TR at the White House). Very informative, and I can see how the Obama Presidency has similar backlash.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tom Rowe

    This is an interesting account of the White House dinner to which President Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington. It caused quite a racial stir. I recommend.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bianca

    Thought it would spend more time on the dinner and it's aftermath but it was still a good read on a little known moment in the history of two great men.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Susan Reed

    Excellent story. Clever style. Great information. Very readable.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joleen

    I enjoyed reading this book. It included interesting biographical information about both Theodore Roosevelt and Booker T. Washington, as well as their special friendship. It was eye-opening in its discussion of the attitudes about African-American people during that time, and the conflicted feelings and decisions that individuals had. I appreciate the way the author kept it in context and broadened the discussion using relevant events in arenas other than politics. Definitely worth the read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    Popular history at its most readable, this is a story about a dinner that Booker T. Washington attended at the White House in 1901. This incident is used as a window through which the race relations of that period can be viewed - can be vividly demonstrated. And to increase the historical range, the author provides concise biographies of the two main diners, of both Booker T. Washington and Teddy Roosevelt. The lives of these two men form the core of the book. Washington's is used to chronicle Popular history at its most readable, this is a story about a dinner that Booker T. Washington attended at the White House in 1901. This incident is used as a window through which the race relations of that period can be viewed - can be vividly demonstrated. And to increase the historical range, the author provides concise biographies of the two main diners, of both Booker T. Washington and Teddy Roosevelt. The lives of these two men form the core of the book. Washington's is used to chronicle his efforts to improve the conditions of former slaves and their children in the south. Teddy's provides the perspective of a northern politian confronting the harsh realities of southern racism. Both are concise but comprehensive, covering each man's entire life. Washington's is especially valuable as a modern introduction to the man - one that tries to correct, to burnish his reputation. TR needs no introduction. Both appear in this book as larger than life, as mythic figures - all bright light, no shadows. Whatever can be said to darken their image is quoted by the author from the mouths of others - e.g. DuBois' criticism of Washington or Mark Twain's "imitation cowboy" characterization of TR. She seems intent on avoiding the ambiguities of both her subjects - to present them purely as 'good guys'. And in a work written for general readers, this is understandable. It has distinguished antecedents. The histories of the Classical Age were 'moral' - were intended to be uplifting, to instill values. Such goals are no longer fashionable - no longer considered scholarly. But because this work embraces the mythic quality of its subjects, rejects any impulse to do revisionism, any impulse to topple marble statues, I found it refreshing - a hopeful change. Myths are important in politics as well as religion - without being factual, they can still convey truth. Patriotic myths create a pride in country and respect for its history and traditions - and can create a sense of community among its citizens, a shared character, a shared destiny. Without them, allegiance to a country and its people weakens. Do not wish to imply that the author is not scholarly. She knows this period well. The cultural and political situation is accurately demonstrated by her well-selected illustrative anecdotes. The history is solid. Only in the characterization of her two main protagonists does the reader find an unnatural golden glow and an absence of shadow. One wonder why, for example, TR invited Booker T. only once - wonders why, after he broke precedent, he never invited Booker T. or any other black to dinner again - wonders how the cause of social and political equality might have been advanced if blacks routinely dined with the president - wonders why the 'Rough Rider', that 'elemental force of nature' allowed southern reactionaries to influence not only his civil rights policies but also his guest lists. Although not explicit, the underlying purpose of this book is to celebrate the contrast between the start of the 20th century when a black man's sitting at a table at the White House produced a wave of racist outrage across the country and now, a time when the current occupant is himself black - her obvious intent is to celebrate the distance the country has travelled in a hundred years. However, left undrawn by the author is the parallel of the ugly reaction to the 1901 dinner to the corresponding ugly reaction to Obama's election - to the upsurge of veiled racism in the Birthers' denial of his legitimacy, in the Tea Party's call 'to take back our country', in the right wing's demonization of his character as exemplified in calling him a socialist, a Kenyan anti-imperialist, 'not a real American', 'not one of us'. Perhaps the author avoids this comparison because she fears that the moral of this book might be taken to be: "The more things change, the more they stay the same". But such an inference would be wrong. Progress, though agonizingly slow, has been real.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jim Gallen

    “Guest of Honor” presents the nationally shocking dinner at which Booker T. Washington was entertained in the White House by President Theodore Roosevelt and his family. More than just the story of a dinner it presents a dual biography of two men who, although worlds apart in their social origins, shared surprisingly similar experiences and whose career paths would intersect. Both the son of a patrician and the son of a slave would lose a wife, Washington would lose two, struggle with rebellious “Guest of Honor” presents the nationally shocking dinner at which Booker T. Washington was entertained in the White House by President Theodore Roosevelt and his family. More than just the story of a dinner it presents a dual biography of two men who, although worlds apart in their social origins, shared surprisingly similar experiences and whose career paths would intersect. Both the son of a patrician and the son of a slave would lose a wife, Washington would lose two, struggle with rebellious children, and serve each other’s interests in the South. 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. For his part, Washington’s vision of a Negro race finding success through the mastery of arts and trades rather than strictly academic pursuits, while maintaining social separation of the races attracted both adherents and detractors. Among his most vociferous detractors was W.E.B. DuBois who demanded equal rights for blacks. Author Deborah Davis posits that the downfall of both men began with racial issues. While Washington’s vision clashed with that of DuBois, Roosevelt’s reputation suffered as a result of the Brownsville incident in which TR approved the discharge a unit of Negro troops over a dubious claim of rape by an unknown member of the unit. Although the respect for each would decline before their deaths, that Roosevelt-Washington dinner would be cited by John McCain as he conceded to the first black man who would dine at the White House, not as a guest, but as a host. This book flows smoothly between the life stories of these two giants of their era. I had read of TR’s plan to use a relationship with Washington for political advantage in the South, but had never before seen the ongoing political partnership explained in such depth. It is a helpful study of a rarely explored aspect of American history.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Miles

    The gobsmacking racism of America still has the capacity to shock when we experience it anew. I knew of Booker T. Washington, but had never paid close attention to his story. Author Deborah Davis does a marvelous job of telling the parallel personal and political histories of Teddy Roosevelt and Booker T. Washington, one born to privilege, and one born in slavery, and the political alliance that flourished between them. That alliance led to an (almost) off-hand and natural invitation to The gobsmacking racism of America still has the capacity to shock when we experience it anew. I knew of Booker T. Washington, but had never paid close attention to his story. Author Deborah Davis does a marvelous job of telling the parallel personal and political histories of Teddy Roosevelt and Booker T. Washington, one born to privilege, and one born in slavery, and the political alliance that flourished between them. That alliance led to an (almost) off-hand and natural invitation to Washington to join the Roosevelt family at the White House for dinner early in his administration. Following the dinner, the firestorm across the South, and the apoplectic outrage at the very idea of a black man dining as a social equal with a white man's family, is just incredible to behold. For anyone who has their eyes and ears open to the racist rhetoric and attitudes of (some of) the opponents of Barack Obama, it is perfectly obvious that today's racists are little changed from 1901's. There is an irredentist racist core to this nation that cannot countenance African Americans as social equals, or see them as having any place at the White House, whether as a guest of the President, or as a President. It is the specific horror of ante-bellum southerners at the idea of social equality and "miscegenation" that is really the most visceral and telling aspect of the whole affair - it exposes the sick emotive heart of racism. Davis' use of the White House dinner as a framing device is really a perfect way to tell the two life stories as they move through their separate political careers toward that fateful night and beyond it. The dinner itself was, by all records, calm and unremarkable, although Washington was acutely aware that he was on new social ground. The firestorm that followed was of another order altogether, taking everyone by surprise. TR was not entirely noble. He backed away somewhat from the event, minimizing it, suggesting that it was less than it was, perhaps only "lunch" or perhaps only a business meeting. And Booker T. Washington was mindful not to do or say anything that would harm his alliance with the President. A full throated civil rights defense, a full throated endorsement of social equality, was not heard. Both TR and Washington could hardly believe the maelstrom that their slight extension of their working political alliance into the "social" realm of a family dinner created, and they judiciously backed away from its implications. The book is not about the dinner, so much as the careers of two men who lived in parallel. The dinner is at the center of the book and the event epitomizes and frames the horror of ante-bellum racist America, and the occasional small signs of progress that dotted the landscape. It's a quick read, and thoroughly enjoyable. I now know a lot more about both Teddy Roosevelt and Booker T. Washington than I did before.

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