The Black History of the White Houseby Clarence Lusane
Official Histories of the United States have almost universally ignored the fact that 25 percent of all U.S. presidents were slaveholders, and that black people were held in bondage in the White House itself. And while the nation was born under the banner of "freedom and justice for all," many colonists only risked rebelling against England in order to protect
Official Histories of the United States have almost universally ignored the fact that 25 percent of all U.S. presidents were slaveholders, and that black people were held in bondage in the White House itself. And while the nation was born under the banner of "freedom and justice for all," many colonists only risked rebelling against England in order to protect their lucrative slave business from the growing threat of British abolitionism. These historical facts, commonly excluded from schoolbooks and popular version of American history, have profoundly shaped the course of race relations in the United States.
In this unprecedented work, Clarence Lusane presents a comprehensive history of the White House from an African American perspective. Here are the stories of those who were forced to work on the construction of the mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the determined leaders who pressured U.S. presidents to outlaw slavery; White House slaves, servants and Secret Service agents; black artists and intellectuals invited to the White House; Washington insiders who rose to the highest levels of power; community leaders who waged presidential campaigns, and many others. Juxtaposing significant events in White House history with the ongoing struggle for civil rights, Clarence Lusane makes plain that the White House has always been a prism through which to view the social struggles and progress of black Americans.
"'The Black History of the White House' features stories of those who were forced to work on the construction of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and the White House slaves and servants who went on to write books. Readers hear from the Secret Service agents who were harassed by their peers to the Washington insiders who rose to the highest levels of power and behind-the-scenes with Black artists and intellectuals invited to the White House."
"The historical patterns elucidated within Lusane's work will have a profound impact on the perceptions of social work students (BSW and MSW). Concepts of race relationships will be altered. In addition, I found that the biographical sketches are reminiscent of Kennedy's Profiles in Courage The book will be a great asset to the intellectual and emotional development of social work students."Journal of Social Work Values & Ethics
"Dr. Clarence Lusane, program director for Comparative and Regional Studies at American University, painted an interesting link between African Americans and the White House dating all the way back to its construction. Throughout the course of his research, Dr. Lusane found that slave labor was used in the construction of the White House and other buildings in Washington, D.C. His book, The Black History of the White House, will certainly be a lesson to us all."Amber Gray, The Bulletin, Vol. 23, No. 3
"The Obamas were the first African American first family, but not the first residents. This thoroughly researched and gripping book shares the untold stories of some of the people who were enslaved by U.S. presidents, including stories of resistance and escape. Lusane describes the myriad ways that the White House and the lives of African Americans have been intertwined throughout U.S. history. This is the only book to document this essential story in our country's history."Rethinking Schools
"Clarence Lusane's Black History of the White House came out late last year and flew under the radar at most of the major book reviews. But Lusane is an elegant, impassioned writer, and the bookwhich is full of stories we’d never encountered in American History 101is totally engrossing. Lusane starts off in the 18th century, working his way up to Barack Obama’s White House. Presidents Washington, Madison, and Roosevelt (the first) come in for especially close examination, but you’ll also read about 'Blind Tom' Wiggins (an autistic savant who was the first African-American to give a professional performance at the White House), James Benjamin Parker (an extremely large man who became a national hero after helping to subdue President McKinley’s assassin), and other figures who are more or less ignored by conventional historians. This is a serious, necessary book, but not a humorless one, and one of our favorite sections involves the forgotten campaign to draft Dizzy Gillespie to run against Lyndon Johnson in 1964: 'Rather than "secretaries" he would have "ministers,"' Lusane writes, 'including Max Roach as Minister of Defense, bassist Charles Mingus as Minister of Peace, Malcolm X as Attorney General, composer Duke Ellington as Ambassador to the Vatican, Louis Armstrong as Minister of Agriculture, and singer Ray Charles would be in charge of the Library of Congress. Other positions were to go to Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Carmen McRae, Woody Herman, and Count Basie.'"The Observer's "Very Short List"
"The author concludes from his research that there is little doubt the first African American in the White House was a slave. In fact, 25 percent of our presidents were slaveholders. And between the time of slavery and nowwith our nation's first black presidentthere is a long and storied history of blacks in the White House, from servants to lobbyists to Secret Service agents, reporters, activists, officials and more."Chicago Sun Times
"The Black History of the White House features stories of those who were forced to work on the construction of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and the White House slaves and servants who went on to write books. Readers hear from the Secret Service agents who were harassed by their peers to the Washington insiders who rose to the highest levels of power and behind-the-scenes with Black artists and intellectuals invited to the White House. 'This book focuses on the historic relationship/contradiction between the declaration of freedom and equality by the nation's foundersand as embodied in the president and the presidencyand the systematic and state-sanctioned discrimination against African Americans and other people of color in the United States,' explained Lusane. 'The White House, as symbol and substance, is the prism through which the long history of Black marginalization is viewed. This book argues that while Barack Obama's election is a milestone, it does not undo the historic or contemporary racial barriers that have always defined the nation, and that contentions that we are now in a post-racial America are false. It further argues that many U.S. Presidents, including those under which major racial progress occurred (Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson), have been complicit in Black marginalization, and that Obama will have to overcome the institution of the presidency if he is to achieve real progress in the area of race relations.'"The Philadelphia Tribune
"Those who think they know their presidents may be in for surprises in Clarence Lusane's fascinating social history that begins: 'More than one in four U.S. presidents were involved in human trafficking and slavery. These presidents bought, sold, bred and enslaved black people for profit. Of the 12 presidents who were enslavers, more than half kept people in bondage at the White House.' Lusane, an American University professor, weaves in stories of people like Paul Jennings, born into slavery on James Madison's farm, who at 10 was a White House footman and in 1865 wrote the first White House memoir, A Colored Man's Reminiscences of James Madison."USA Today
"In eloquent language, Lusane shows how the African American experience helped shape a series of presidential administrations and governmental policies."Sacramento Bee
"Despite the racial progress represented by the election of the first black president of the U.S., the nation's capital has a very complicated and often unflattering racial history. Lusane traces the racial history of the White House from George Washington to Barack Obama."Booklist
"Slaves have toiled in the White House; 25 percent of our Presidents were slaveholders. Lusane reminds readers of the place of the President's house, from its very construction onward, in African American history, a tale all-too rarely told."Library Journal
" carefully documents the travails of a polity in which African-Americans were so essential and prevalent, but that struggled endlessly to maintain, then dismantle, the institution of slavery A lively, opinionated survey, telling a story that the textbooks too often overlook."Kirkus Reviews
Comprehensive, decidedly non-neutral, history of the African-American presence in American political life through perhaps its most representative place.
"The black history of the White House," writes scholar and journalist Lusane (Political Science/American Univ.; Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice: Foreign Policy, Race, and the New American Century, 2006, etc.), "begins in the pre-revolutionary period, during which future occupants of the White House first laid the foundation of what was to become more than two-centuries of race-based cruelty, exclusion, and violence." That sentence speaks directly to the outlook of this book, which carefully documents the travails of a polity in which African-Americans were so essential and prevalent, but that struggled endlessly to maintain, then dismantle, the institution of slavery, and then could never quite accept the notion that all people are created equal—an idea put to pen by Thomas Jefferson even as his slave Richard "quietly brought him his nightly tea." Lusane is unsparing. In his analysis, an icon such as Dolley Madison is found deeply wanting for having reneged on her promise to free her "mulatto man Paul," instead selling him at a bargain price—even after he had paid her to secure his freedom. The author capably uses the tools of sociology and history, but he seems most at home at the intersection of politics and popular culture. He writes engagingly of the long tradition of African-American opera stars appearing at the White House through the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, a tradition revived only during Franklin Roosevelt's first administration; and of the later tradition of jazz performances at the White House, one that only George H.W. Bush did not observe (though son George W. Bush did). Lusane closes with a consideration of African-American efforts to secure a political place within the White House, from Marcus Garvey to Shirley Chisholm, Dick Gregory, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and, of course, Barack Obama.
A lively, opinionated survey, telling a story that the textbooks too often overlook.
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Meet the Author
Dr. Lusane is a columnist for the Black Voices syndicated news network. He has published in Washington Post, Miami Herald, Baltimore Sun, Oakland Tribune, Black Scholar, Race and Class, and many more. He often appears on PBS, BET, C-SPAN and other national media. Author of several books and former editor of Black Political Agenda, he teaches at Howard University.
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Compare and Contrast with PBS Series of "UpStairs/DownStairs", and "Downton Abbey" from an African-American perspective. The book could also be utilized in Labor Relations discussions. I am suggesting it to my bookclub to add to our list for review and discussion.I think it has more appeal to over fifty retired working women.I could see this story becoming a HBO movie also.
The book was was very interesting and quite informative, especially if you are into black history and/or politics.
This is just a great book, well researched and very informative. History has omitted a lot of contributions Blacks have made and this adds to the list.