History on this day: Teddy Roosevelt talks about Race

Since this is Black History Month, I decided to dedicate this post to remember a piece of history that was lost in translation. I’m not going to be quoting Civil Rights activists like Malcolm X or Martian Luther King Jr.

I’m going to be talking about a speech that President Theodore Roosevelt delivered on this day in 1905. It seems spontaneous, but the speech that Roosevelt gave at the New York City Republican Club is timeless.

In the 1905, most white American’s point of view about other races—especially Asian and African immigrants—was jittery. Roosevelt had good time when talking about the race problem in America.

Remember, this was in the early 1900’s.

During the speech, Roosevelt’s answer to the race problem for the time, according to History.com, “was to proceed slowly toward social and economic equality.” Roosevelt also cautioned that the government changes nothing and recommended that white American’s casually change their attitude toward different races.

Roosevelt stated in this speech that white Americans were a forward race that has responsibilities in training other races with industrial capability, political quantity and domestic morals. Back then, that’s how people thought.

Roosevelt believed what the Declaration of Independence says: All men are created equal. The speech that he gave that day didn’t seem to catch up with everyone.

According to History.com, Roosevelt’s administration “took only a passive, long-term approach to improving civil rights.” Lyndon Johnson was the next generation’s president that did more than make a speech; he passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


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