Family of Freedom: Presidents and African Americans in the White House

Overview

This book examines the intertwined relationships between the presidents and the African Americans who have been an integral part of the White House since the beginning of the Republic. The book discusses the racial attitudes and policies of the presidents and shows how African Americans helped to shape those attitudes and policies over the years. The analysis starts with the early presidents who had slaves and tells the compelling stories of their interactions, with an emphasis on how these slaves dealt with ...

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Overview

This book examines the intertwined relationships between the presidents and the African Americans who have been an integral part of the White House since the beginning of the Republic. The book discusses the racial attitudes and policies of the presidents and shows how African Americans helped to shape those attitudes and policies over the years. The analysis starts with the early presidents who had slaves and tells the compelling stories of their interactions, with an emphasis on how these slaves dealt with bondage in the supposed citadel of American freedom and independence. The book moves through the era of Abraham Lincoln, whose views on emancipation were greatly influenced by the African Americans around him, especially by White House seamstress Elizabeth Keckley and valet William Slade. The book covers the Jim Crow era and proceeds through the political and cultural breakthroughs on civil rights accomplished by Lyndon Johnson in partnership with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. The book ends with an insightful analysis of the rise, election, and administration of Barack Obama, the first African American president, including an exclusive interview with Obama.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The election of Barack Obama has been viewed by many as a definitive statement on America's tumultuous history with race relations. From its beginning, America has had a complex, some would say schizophrenic, relationship to race—a fledgling democracy espousing equality that also placed a fractional value on black people and based a good deal of its agricultural industry on slave labor. Walsh (From Mount Vernon to Crawford) draws on his extensive experience covering the White House as a journalist to examine the history of the presidency through the lens of the African-American experience—from slavery through civil rights. He explores the difference between the race rhetoric and policy accomplishments of presidents Washington, Wilson, Truman, the Roosevelts, Obama and others. In the case of contemporary presidents (the Bushes, Reagan, Clinton, Obama) he discusses how their private interactions with White House staff compare to policy. The result is a narrowly focused, compelling history of race relations in American politics. Readers interested in the history of the presidency, White House, and civil rights will find much of interest in Walsh's well-researched study. (Feb.)
Library Journal
An examination of the relationships between the Presidents and the African Americans who have been an integral part of the White House since the beginning of the republic. Walsh starts with the slave-owning Presidents and moves through the civil rights breakthroughs engineered by LBJ working in concert with Martin Luther King. Includes an exclusive interview with President Obama.
Library Journal
Walsh (chief White House correspondent, U.S. News & World Report; From Mount Vernon to Crawford: A History of Presidents and Their Retreats) portrays how blacks have historically played an integral role in the affairs of the White House. Black slave laborers were used extensively in the construction of the building, and all 44 Presidents have had black household staff. But only in recent years have African Americans played key roles in policy decisions made in the West Wing. Unfortunately, there are significant gaps in Walsh's historical account. Very little is said about the eight Presidents who served in the important antebellum period, and almost nothing is offered relating to the Presidents who served in the late 19th century when blacks were being stripped of the political power achieved under Reconstruction. And while any account of blacks in the White House must include a discussion of our first black President, Walsh devotes too much space to recent history well known to most Americans. VERDICT Walsh offers general readers a solid summary of black history as its relates to the executive mansion, but historians will find greater satisfaction in the more detailed analysis available in Clarence Lusane's The Black History of the White House, reviewed above.—Robert Bruce Slater, Stroudsburg, PA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594518331
  • Publisher: Paradigm Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/1/2011
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,473,630
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Kenneth T. Walsh has covered the White House full-time since 1986 and is one of the longest-serving White House correspondents in history. He is former president of the White House Correspondents’ Association and has won the most prestigious awards for White House coverage. He is an adjunct professorial lecturer of communication at American University in Washington, D.C. This is his fifth book. Walsh is a frequent speaker on topics related to the presidency and often serves as an analyst on television and radio.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Michael Hahn
Chapter One: The Family of Freedom and the Arc of Racial History
Chapter Two: The Slave-Owning Presidents
Chapter Three: The Emancipator
Chapter Four: Opportunity Lost
Chapter Five: Jim Crow
Chapter Six: Stirrings of Change
Chapter Seven: A Few Shining Moments
Chapter Eight: Camelot in Black and White
Chapter Nine: The Breakthrough
Chapter Ten: Mixed Results in a Conservative Era
Chapter Eleven: Three Southern Presidents
Chapter Twelve: The First Black President
Chapter Thirteen: Charisma and Reality
Notes
Bibliography
Index
About the Author

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