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How icons Teddy Roosevelt and Booker T. Washington blazed a path for racial equality

 

If Roosevelt brought empathy to the circumstances of America’s Black citizens, Washington more than matched it with hope. Together they shaped a highly unusual collaboration that lasted beyond Roosevelt’s time in office. They could not reverse generations of racism and racist policy, but they challenged the assumptions of their fellow Americans and got Black men appointed to historically unprecedented positions of power. Although their joint victories had been limited, Roosevelt’s very public recognition of Washington, brief and compromised though it was, affirmed Washington’s status as the most essential spokesman of their era for Black America. 

No one is perfect; nor is any friendship. Yet Booker and Theodore were men of virtue, men who worked together in good faith to do good, to live up to Lincoln’s ambitions for a “more perfect union.” They were the right men for their moment even if, at times, their efforts misfired–the great make mistakes, too. But Booker T. and Teddy had a vision. They had drive. And their skins were tough enough that they drove forward even in the face of often vicious criticism. We are a better nation because they chose to fight; they would not settle, recognizing that progress is always a battle.

This excerpt is adapted from “Teddy and Booker T: How Two American Icons Blazed a Path for Racial Equality” by Brian Kilmeade with permission from Sentinel, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC copyright © 2023 by Brian Kilmeade.

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Brian Kilmeade is the co-host of FOX News Channel’s (FNC) FOX & Friends (weekdays 6-9 AM/ET) alongside Steve Doocy and Ainsley Earhardt and the host of One Nation with Brian Kilmeade (Saturdays 8-9 PM/ET). 

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