The Black history of the White House

Clarence Lusane, 1953-

Book - 2011

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San Francisco, CA : City Lights Books c2011.
Main Author
Clarence Lusane, 1953- (-)
Physical Description
575 p. : ill., ports. ; 21 cm
Includes bibliographical references (p. 523-540) and index.
  • Introduction: Black People, White Houses
  • Chapter 1. A Declaration of Independence and Racism: Founding Documents, Founding Fathers, and the Preservation of Slavery
  • Prelude: "Oney's White House Story
  • Chapter 2. The Presidents House in the Home of the Abolitionist Movement
  • Prelude: Hercules' White House Story
  • Chapter 3. A White House Built On and With Slavery
  • Prelude: Peter's White House Story
  • Chapter 4. Closed Doors: The White House and Presidents of Slavery
  • Prelude: Paul Jennings's White House Story
  • Chapter 5. The White House Goes to War: Rebellion, Reconstruction and Retrenchment
  • Prelude: Elizabeth Keckly's White House Story
  • Chapter 6. James Crow's White House
  • Prelude: Booker T. Washington's White House Story
  • Chapter 7. The 1960s and the Crisis of Power: The White House and Black Mobilization
  • Prelude: Abraham Bolden's White House Story
  • Chapter 8. Black Challenges to the White House The Campaigns to Make the White House Black
  • Prelude: Marcus Garvey's White House Story
  • Chapter 9. The Latest Political Milestone: The Obamas in the White House
  • Prelude: Michelle Obama's White House Story
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • About the Author
Review by Choice Review

Set in the context of African American history generally, Lusane's book effectively considers the complex ways the black experience intertwined with and evolved in the White House. Beginning with Ona Maria Judge, Martha Washington's slave at the president's Philadelphia residence, Lusane (political science, American Univ.) traces African Americans who served as household staff, entertainers, visitors, advisors, cabinet members, and presidential candidates (successful or not, in fact and fiction), as well as the symbolism of "White House" for black America. Ten US presidents owned slaves; the White House maintained segregated dining facilities until Eleanor Roosevelt ended the practice. The author argues cogently that despite considerable improvement in African Americans' position in the US and the White House, Barack Obama's election did not produce a postracial society without racism. Organized chronologically, chapters begin with in-depth vignettes including Judge, Michelle Obama, and Booker T. Washington. The latter's 1901 luncheon with Theodore Roosevelt created a national furor; the next day the president officially named the residence "White House.. Well researched and written, this is an important study that should be widely read despite uneven coverage, some errors, and neglect of the DC context. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. J. Borchert emeritus, Cleveland State University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

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. He profiles slaves and free blacks who defied the barriers of racism, including Oney Judge and others owned by presidents who escaped to freedom; performers such as the enslaved musical prodigy known as Blind Tom, who performed at the White House; and Elizabeth Keckly, who served as seamstress and confidante to Mary Todd Lincoln. From the very beginning, the tension between the nation's ideals and the practices of its leaders produced glaring contradictions: Washington's deliberate circumvention of the law to hold on to slaves while living in Philadelphia, Lincoln's struggle to keep a fractious nation together and come to terms with his own racial biases, and the struggle of others to balance party and political concerns against a burgeoning civil rights movement. A sweeping portrayal of changing historical tides at the White House.--Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review by Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

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 equalan 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 priceeven 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.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.