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Guest of Honor: Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and the White House Dinner That Shocked a Nation Hardcover – May 8, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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

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.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books (May 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439169810
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439169810
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #834,686 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One morning, I heard an interview on the radio with the author about this story, got on my smartphone and one-click ordered this book with Amazon Prime, only to find it was somehow delivered to my door only a few hours later. Pretty amazing.. and what a different time it from the time of Roosevelt and Washington.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
In the introduction to her book, "Guest of Honor", author Deborah Davis reveals that she had never heard of the White House dinner of October, 1901, with Booker T. Washington as the guset of the new president, Theodore Roosevelt. She says at the end of the introduction that she believes this dinner changed history. It's a compelling thought but one not borne out by the book.

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.
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