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The Butler: A Witness to History
Category->Ethnic Studies
The Butler: A Witness to History

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By Wil Haygood. Haygood's work is a mesmerizing inquiry into the life of Eugene Allen, the butler who ignited a nation's imagination and inspired a major motion picture: Lee Daniels' The Butler, the highly anticipated film that stars six Oscar winners, including Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey.  The Butler not only explores Allen's life and service to eight American Presidents, from Truman to Reagan, but also includes an essay, in the vein of James Baldwin’s jewel The Devil Finds Work, that explores the history of black images on celluloid and in Hollywood, and fifty-seven pictures of Eugene Allen, his family, the presidents he served, and the remarkable cast of the movie. Atria (2013), English, 112 pages.

 

Eugene Allen, a butler, served no fewer than 8 presidents, from Truman to Reagan. During his 34 years of service, Allen became a “discreet stagehand who for three decades helped keep the show running in the most important political theatre of all.” While serving tea and supervising buffets, Allen was also a witness to history as decisions about America’s most momentous events were being made. From the Cuban missile crisis and Kennedy’s widow returning that fateful day in Dallas, to Johnson's cabinet debating Vietnam and civil rights and Reagan's apartheid policy, he was there even as his own community of neighbors, friends, and family were contending another side of America.

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