The Black History of the White House

The Black History of the White House

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by Clarence Lusane
     
 

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The untold history and politics of the White House from the perspective of African Americans.See more details below

Overview

The untold history and politics of the White House from the perspective of African Americans.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Lusane (Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice) returns to the nation's highest office in his latest work, tracing the seldom-revealed contributions of black men and women in the White House, from the days of its construction to the present. He meticulously threads personal stories of slaves, builders, chefs, jazz performers, policymakers, and other historic figures (accompanied by occasional portraits) with sharp analyses of leaders facing the criticism and challenges of their times. Whether considering slave-owning presidents who publicly skirted their participation in the practice, exploring Emancipation, Reconstruction, the Civil Rights movement and its aftermath, or discussing contemporary instances, like the Beer Summit, and questioning whether the Obama presidency signals a post-racial era, Lusane offers a vital addition to American history. The thorough density with which he approaches his subject may slow the pace, but scholars will find an intelligent account of one the most controversial and revered seats of power. Lusane's effort is much more than a catchy title or revisionist tome: it's an eye-opening tribute and a provocative reminder of the many narratives that have gone untold. Photos. (Jan.)
The Observer's "Very Short List"
"Lusane is an elegant, impassioned writer, and the book—which is full of stories we'd never encountered in American History 101—is totally engrossing. . . . This is a serious, necessary book . . . "
USA Today
"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."
The Chicago Sun Times
"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 now — with our nation's first black president — there 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."
The Philadelphia Tribune
"Clarence Lusane presents a comprehensive — yet untold — history of the White House from an African American perspective. In illuminating the central role Blacks played in this country's history, Lusane charts the course of race relations in the Untied States.

"'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."

Rethinking Schools
"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."
Booklist
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.
The Boston Globe
The White House was built with slave labor and at least six US presidents owned slaves during their time in office. With these facts, Clarence Lusane, a political science professor at American University, opens 'The Black History of the White House'(City Lights), a fascinating story of race relations that plays out both on the domestic front and the international stage. As Lusane writes, 'The Lincoln White House resolved the issue of slavery, but not that of racism.' Along with the political calculations surrounding who gets invited to the White House are matters of musical tastes and opinionated first ladies, ingredients that make for good storytelling.
Sacramento Bee
"In eloquent language, Lusane shows how the African American experience helped shape a series of presidential administrations and governmental policies."
From the Publisher

"Lusane's scholarship and passion make this a compelling book, and one which all students of US foreign policy and the politics of Black America should consider an invaluable text."-Bill Fletcher "Lusane has created a groundbreaking analysis of the intersection of racial politics and American foreign policy."-Institute for Policy Studies "This thoroughly researched analysis of the twisted relationship between the U.S. racial politics and U.S. foreign policy is a must-read for both academics and activists."-Howard Winant

"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 August 2011

"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 book—which is full of stories we’d never encountered in American History 101—is totally engrossing.--The Observer's "Very Short List"

"Lusane's effort is much more than a catchy title or revisionist tome: it's an eye-opening tribute and a provocative reminder of the many narratives that have gone untold."--Publishers Weekly

"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 now — with our nation's first black president — there 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

"In illuminating the central role Blacks played in this country's history, Lusane charts the course of race relations in the Untied States."--The Philadelphia Tribune

"Those who think they know their presidents may be in for surprises in Clarence Lusane's fascinating social history . . ."--USA Today

"In eloquent language, Lusane shows how the African American experience helped shape a series of presidential administrations and governmental policies." --Sacramento Bee

"The White House was built with slave labor and at least six US presidents owned slaves during their time in office. With these facts, Clarence Lusane, a political science professor at American University, opens 'The Black History of the White House'(City Lights), a fascinating story of race relations that plays out both on the domestic front and the international stage. As Lusane writes, 'The Lincoln White House resolved the issue of slavery, but not that of racism.' Along with the political calculations surrounding who gets invited to the White House are matters of musical tastes and opinionated first ladies, ingredients that make for good storytelling."--Boston Globe

"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

Library Journal
Lusane (Sch. of International Service, American Univ.; Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice) offers a comprehensive and well-documented account of African Americans who have graced the White House as builders, slaves, servants, entertainers, policy professionals, and finally as the nation's First Family. Lusane offers detailed accounts of black experiences at the White House, and in many cases his precise personal histories of these African Americans provide material not readily available in other secondary sources. However, as is the case with Kenneth T. Walsh's Family of Freedom (see below), Lusane devotes too many pages to analysis of the Obama campaign and presidency. VERDICT While any book about blacks and the White House must pay tribute to the nation's first black President, dwelling on the intricacies of Obama's election and his first two years in office detracts from the great wealth of unfamiliar history that is also presented here. Nonetheless, this is an important work of historical scholarship, bringing together chronicles of the African Americans who have played major roles in the annals of the presidential mansion.—Robert Bruce Slater, Stroudsburg, PA
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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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780872866119
Publisher:
City Lights Books
Publication date:
01/23/2013
Series:
City Lights Open Media
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
544
Sales rank:
216,582
File size:
4 MB

What People are saying about this

Robin D.G. Kelley
“Black folks built the White House in more ways than one. In this beautifully rendered narrative, Clarence Lusane recasts the whole of American history by revealing how slavery and emancipation, racial violence and civil rights, the black freedom movement and white supremacy, and dozens of unsung black heroes shaped the U.S. presidency and federal government in profound ways. Anyone who cares about this country and is not afraid of the truth must read this book, including President Obama. It can help him get his house in order.”--(Robin D. G. Kelley, author Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original)
Howard Winant
"Reading The Black History of the White House shows us how much we DON'T know about our history, politics, and culture. In a very accessible and polished style, Clarence Lusane takes us inside the key national events of the American past and present. He reveals new dimensions of the black presence in the US from revolutionary days to the Obama campaign. Yes, 'black hands built the White House' — enslaved black hands — but they also built this country's economy, political system, and culture, in ways Lusane shows us in great detail. . . . This book would be a great addition to many courses in history, sociology, or ethnic studies courses. Highly recommended!" --(Howard Winant, UC Santa Barbara)
Barbara Ehrenreich
"Barack Obama may be the first black president in the White House, but he's far from the first black person to work in it. In this fascinating history of all the enslaved people, workers and entertainers who spent time in the president's official residence over the years, Clarence Lusane restores the White House to its true colors." --(Barbara Ehrenreich)

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