On November 12, on Saturday Night Live, Dave Chappelle concluded his opening monologue with a heartfelt and admirable call for racial understanding and continuing progress in race relations during the impending Trump presidency. Unfortunately it included this statement: “Roosevelt was president, he had a black guy over and got so much flack from the media that he literally said, ‘I will never have a n….r in this house again.’” It appears that Chappelle was referring to Booker T. Washington’s October 1901 White House dinner with Theodore Roosevelt. But Roosevelt, an advanced racial thinker for his time and a promoter of racial justice during a very difficult period in U.S. history, never made such a statement (“literally” or otherwise), and indeed did not use the n-word in this or any other context. Southern criticism of the Booker T. Washington dinner was extremely harsh and racist, true, but in stark contrast to Chappelle’s story, TR responded: “I regard the attacks with the most contemptuous indifference,” and “I shall have him to dine just as often as I please.”
— William Tilchin, President, Theodore Roosevelt Association
Theodore Roosevelt Association
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