When Washington's autobiography, Up From Slavery, was published in 1901, it became a bestseller and had a major impact on the African American community, its friends and allies. One of the results was a dinner invitation to the White House in 1901 by President Theodore Roosevelt.
Eventual Governor of Mississippi James K. Vardaman and Senator Benjamin Tillman of South Carolina indulged in racist personal attacks in response to the invitation. Vardaman described the White House as "so saturated with the odor of the nigger that the rats have taken refuge in the stable" and declared "I am just as much opposed to Booker T. Washington as a voter as I am to the cocoanut-headed, chocolate-colored typical little coon who blacks my shoes every morning. Neither is fit to perform the supreme function of citizenship." Tillman opined that "The action of President Roosevelt in entertaining that nigger will necessitate our killing a thousand niggers in the South before they will learn their place again."
Austro-Hungarian ambassador to the United States Ladislaus Hengelmüller von Hengervár, who was visiting the White House on the same day, claimed to have found a rabbit's foot in Washington's coat pocket when he mistakenly put on the coat; The Washington Post elaborately described it as "the left hind foot of a graveyard rabbit, killed in the dark of the moon" The Detroit Journal quipped the next day, "The Austrian ambassador may have made off with Booker T. Washington's coat at the White House, but he'd have a bad time trying to fill his shoes."