When the President Fought White Supremacists

No, this isn’t a story about the current president. It’s about Teddy Roosevelt, the late president who on this date in 1903 shuttered the post office in Indianola, Mississippi, a punishment for locals’ racist intimidation of Minnie M. Cox, a black woman who was also the town’s postmaster.

Though Mrs. Cox had already held the role for well over a decade— President Benjamin Harrison appointed her in 1891, making Cox the nation’s first black female postmaster, and McKinley invited her back in 1897 — the combination of blackness, womanhood and power apparently become too much for self-conscious white chauvinists at the turn of the century. Egged on my white supremacist newspaper editor James K. Vardaman, local haters started protesting Cox at the end of 1902.

Finally, after weeks of awful invective and constant threats, including  the mayor and sheriff telling her they wouldn’t protect her from lynching, Cox involuntarily resigned her position.

Roosevelt was having none of it.

Continue reading