Tuesday, March 1, 2016

White House Tea ~ Lou Hoover and Jessie DePriest - Unflinching Grace and Class

  un*flinch*ing (an adjective)
- not showing fear or hesitation in the face of danger or difficulty.  SYNONYMS:  resolute, determined, single-minded, steadfast, resolved, firm, committed, unwavering, unswerving, unfaltering, untiring, undaunted, fearless.  " Lou Hoover and Jessie DePriest...... they gently, quietly, and deliciously sat together - they sipped and enjoyed a cup of tea - in unflinching determination" 


You remind me of my grandmother..... There are questions I did not ask.... and answers that I search for.

Your Pennsylvania parents held you tight on September 03, 1870. On February 23, 1898, your name changed from Jessie L. Williams of Rockford, IL to the Mrs DePriest!   Your husband was Oscar DePriest, (March 9, 1871 - May 12, 1951). He became the first black man from outside the south to be elected to Congress. (House of Representatives Illinois)  He served as a lawmaker and civil rights advocate until 1934 for the over 11 million African American Citizens here in the United States.

I'm trying to understand politics  in the election year of 1928 when Herbert Hoover made a landslide victory over Al Smith - a Catholic from New York.  In the voting process, five Southern States broke rank and voted as Republicans...??  Was it because Al Smith was a Catholic or id it also have to do with protecting certain policies and gain??

So Jessie, your husband wins.... and Hoover wins. As custome would have it, were you aware that President Hoover's wife - the socialite of her era - would want to host a White House Tea for congressmen's wives?  

Now, you may have lived long enough to know that the last time a Colored Person/Negro was a guest in the White House was in 1901 vis President Theodore Roosevelt's dining with Booker T. Washington!  And no matter how much positive public recognition Booker received for his work at Tuskogee Institute - nor his writings - nor his public speaking records...... it just wasn't fit or worthy of being a guest of the POTUS!  Dining in the White House (built by black men and women) was deemed the "most damnable outrage ever"

Dearest Jesse DePriest, not it's your turn!  The formal papers of Lou Hoover show that she-herself never considered omitting you from the Tea Party List.  But just how sharp a lady, hour courageous, how smart would she herself have to be to avoid political damage to her husband and to our nation's conscience?    This simple act of inclusion of a colored woman to a White House Tea would become a platform of nobility for which I and others applaud Lou Hoover on today and for years to come!

The custom was to have one large tea in May, the spring of the year.  Ahhhh..... but your invitation -Mrs Depriest - arrives on June 12.  Did you suspect it would be a smaller, handpicked grouping of Mrs Hoover's sister, her secretary, a couple of congressional wives who had already attended earlier, much larger gatherings.....?  Would you - Mrs DePriest - be escorted through the main entrance into the Green Room as casually as all the other invited guests?

For the little that you knew or suspected - Dear Jessie - the newspapers did get wind of your invitation.....and what an uproar!  Southern legislators quickly passed resolutions to condemn President Hoover's wife, newspapers said she was offering the nation "an arrogant insult" and that she was bringing "disgrace' to the White House!

But Jessie..... My Dear Jessie,
I still have questions from you.   There are research documents that tell us what the world was thinking.... as well as a few letters from you protective husband regarding your visit to the White House!

Is there not a note, or a voice before or since your death on March 31, 1961 at the age of ninety.  What were your fears, strengths, parenting style and grandparenting joys... along side your impression of a solitary day in June 1929 -- when you attended a White House Tea Party?  Any help or advice from your mom or sisters or maybe a big brother???  This is where my geneology itch (mispelled, nonetheless) kicks in! Were you anxious on that day.  You were only 29 years old!!

A photograph....!!!  Yes, you were quite the elegant and well- prepared woman.  You wore your fashionable flapper dress, a smart hat perfectly centered, a brief smile, the beads, accessories, the purse and shows.  Rumor has it that the head usher singled you out as the most "dignified woman in the room."  Without incident - reportedly - you were treated with courtesy and respect.  Lou Hoover's secretary spoke about another butler who served the tea cakes seemed particularly proud and impressed with Mrs Jessie DePriest!

Wishin You ~ Deep Wells of Joy  ~ 2016
. . . . . from Beverly 
(and my Dear Jessie DePriest)

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