Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


The DePriest Tea Incident and the Social Integration of the White House
Author:
Valerie Schrag
Course:
African American History
Time Frame:
One class period
Subjects:
Civil Rights

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:
  • Through the use of primary sources, students will learn about the social integration of the White House in 1929 during what became known as the DePriest Tea Incident. 

Rationale:
  • The study of the African American experience in the post-World War I United States often concentrates only on the Great Migration and the Harlem Renaissance.  Utilizing the DePriest Tea incident will illustrate a number of other transformations occurring within the black community in the United States, particularly the group’s re-entry into Congressional politics after a 28-year absence at the height of Jim Crow.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:


  • Kansas Standards for History, Government and Social Studies (adopted 2013), Standard 4 – “Societies experience continuity and change over time.”; Unit – World War I and the Roaring 20s; Compelling Question - How did social changes of the 1920s impact society over the next half century?
  • Common Core CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.2- Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
  • Common Core CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.6 - Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.
  • Common Core CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.9 - Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • “White House Tea and No Sympathy: The DePriest Incident, 1929,” The White House Historical Association, pages 1-3 (synopsis of the event) – obtained from Elizabeth Dinschel, education specialist at the Hoover Library, at the 2014 Truman Library teacher conference
  • “‘A Tempest in a Teapot:’ The Racial Politics of First Lady Lou Hoover’s Invitation of Jessie DePriest to a White House Tea,” an online exhibition created by the White House Historical Association, http://www.whitehousehistory.org/presentations/depriest-tea-incident/
  • Darlene Clark Hine, William C. Hine & Stanley Harrold, African American History (Pearson-Prentice Hall), Chapter 17 “African Americans and the 1920s”

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • selected newspaper clippings about the DePriest Tea Incident – obtained from Elizabeth Dinschel, education specialist at the Hoover Library, at the 2014 Truman Library teacher conference
  • letters written to President and Mrs. Hoover, both objecting to and supporting Mrs. Hoover’s actions in inviting Mrs. DePriest to tea at the White House – obtained from Elizabeth Dinschel, education specialist at the Hoover Library, at the 2014 Truman Library teacher conference and appended to this lesson plan

Link to primary sources: http://www.trumanlibrary.org/educ/schrag-lesson.pdf

Full description of activity or assignment.
  1. This lesson will come at the end of our study of African Americans in the 1920s.  Students must have an understanding of the Harlem Renaissance and the activism of the NAACP and Marcus Garvey’s UNIA to correctly place this event in its historical context.
  2. As homework the night before, the students will read the overview of the DePriest Tea Incident, entitled “White House Sympathy and No Tea: The DePriest Incident, 1929.”  They will also read the section entitled “Pathbreakers: Oscar and Jessie DePriest” on the “‘A Tempest in a Teapot:’ The Racial Politics of First Lady Lou Hoover’s Invitation of Jessie DePriest to a White House Tea” website.  These readings will give the students a basic understanding of who the DePriests were and what occurred during the tea incident.
  3. At the beginning of class, review the major themes and ideas related to the study of African Americans in the 1920s.  Remind the students of the Great Migration, the participation of African American soldiers in World War I, Jim Crow, the Harlem Renaissance, etc.  Then, ask the students to identify where those issues/ideas were addressed in the articles they read for homework.
  4. Once students clearly understand the basic facts of the DePriest Tea Incident, read the letters appended to this lesson plan.  These letters should be read together in class, as they will spark quite a bit of discussion and should be processed together by the class as a whole.  For each document, have the students identify: 1) the point of view of the author; 2) two pieces of evidence from the letter that support that point of view; 3) how the letter reflects the social tensions in American society regarding race relations in the late 1920s.
  5. As homework, give students the packet of newspaper articles related to the DePriest Tea Incident.  The students should read 4 articles (including some from both the North and the South) and complete the same analysis procedures that they used for the letters in #4 above.

 

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:
  • Students will hand in their newspaper article analyses to be graded.