CORRESPONDING TEACHER'S TEXT
RETURN TO LESSON | Return to LESSONS: 4-8
The White House Historical Association | Classroom
The perseverance of African Americans through the indignities of slavery and segregation is among the most tragic and heroic stories in American history. The complexities of American race relations have been exhibited within the walls of the White House for all of its years. Some presidents have owned slaves that worked at the White House, while other presidents have benefited from the efforts and advice of African Americans who served in their cabinet, commanded armies, and sat in judgment on court cases affecting every American. The evolution of race relations in the United States is illustrated by the way presidents have interacted with African Americans at the White House, as well as by the different policies they have championed to advance civil rights.
The following historical accounts chart the frustrating march toward reducing bigotry and fully integrating African Americans into the American mainstream. Some 19th-century presidents, who were also southern planters, staffed the chief executive’s home with slaves from their plantations. Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in the White House on January 1, 1863. Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to the White House and caused an uproar. Eleanor Roosevelt traveled beyond the bounds of the White House to visit the disenfranchised Americans in their own homes. The process of translating an awareness of the unfairness of racism into action is explored in Harry S. Truman’s decision to desegregate the armed forces, and Lyndon B. Johnson’s determination to enact civil rights legislation.