‘A Tempest in a Teapot’

The Racial Politics of First Lady Lou Hoover’s Invitation of Jessie DePriest to a White House Tea

White House Tea and
No Sympathy

The "DePriest Incident": Classroom Activities

Historians are challenged in their work when they interpret documents left behind by people from the past. Often, evidence describing an event from different perspectives will yield conflicts and contradictions. The historian has to consider which sources are likely to be more accurate.

This activity asks students to read different descriptions of the "DePriest Incident." Jessie DePriest, wife of Congressman Oscar DePriest, was invited to tea at the White House by First Lady Lou Hoover in 1929. Not since President Theodore Roosevelt invited African-American Booker T. Washington to a private White House dinner in 1901 had race relations touched the first family in such a personal way.

Photograph of Jessie DePriest

Portrait of Jessie DePriest. Courtesy of Barbara DePriest.