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Chapter Twelve. “Half a Southerner”: President Roosevelt, African Americans and the South

Adam D. Burns


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As most Americans know, President Theodore Roosevelt was a scion of the prominent, affluent and Dutch-descended New York Roosevelts. However, he was also, in his own words, “half a southerner” making him a “thoroughly good American” ( Morison, Blum, and Chandler 1951 , Volume 2: 1169). Though his paternal family line was rooted in the Empire State, TR's maternal relations, the Bullochs, heralded from the “Empire State of the South,” Georgia. As a young boy Teedie, as he was then known, grew up surrounded by his Confederate-sympathizing maternal relations and their romantic tales of the ante-bellum South ( Roosevelt (1985) [1913] , 12). His mother, Martha “Mittie” Roosevelt, so typified the southern belle archetype that some believe she was a source of reference for the character Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind ( R.D. White 2003 , 217). In his recent study, Joshua Hawley notes that although the young Roosevelt never developed a close sympathy with his mother's views on the Confederacy or slavery, her influence did acclimatize him to the idea of a master race and politics centered on racial difference ( Hawley 2008 , 29). Most biographies of TR bring attention to his southern heritage and Civil War childhood suggesting the various influences these factors might have had on the young Theodore Roosevelt. Historian H.W. Brands suggests that this southern influence was pervasive ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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