On February 13, 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt delivers a stirring speech to the New York City Republican Club.
Roosevelt had just won reelection, and in this speech, he discussed the country’s current state of race relations and his plan for improving them. In 1905, many white Americans’ attitude of superiority to other races still lingered. Much bitterness still existed between North and South and, in addition, Roosevelt’s tenure in office had seen an influx of Asian immigrants in the West, which contributed to new racial tensions.
Roosevelt’s solution in 1905 was to proceed slowly toward social and economic equality. He cautioned against imposing radical changes in government policy and instead suggested a gradual adjustment in attitudes.
While Roosevelt believed in the words of the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal, his administration took only a passive, long-term approach to improving civil rights. His successors in the 20th century would take the same route—it was not until Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 that government efforts to correct racial bias would be encoded into law.