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This title in other editions

The Butler: A Witness to History

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The Butler: A Witness to History Cover

ISBN13: 9781476752990
ISBN10: 1476752990
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
All Product Details

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

When acclaimed Washington Post writer Wil Haygood had an early hunch that Obama would win the 2008 election, he thought he'd highlight the singular moment by exploring the life of someone who had come of age when segregation was so widespread, so embedded in the culture as to make the very thought of a black president inconceivable. He struck gold when he tracked down Eugene Allen, a butler who had served no fewer than eight presidents, from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan. During his thirty-four years of service, Allen became what the Independent described as 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. Here he is at the White House while Kennedy contemplates the Cuban missile crisis; here he is again when Kennedy's widow returns from that fateful day in Dallas. Here he is when Johnson and his cabinet debate Vietnam, and here he is again when Ronald Reagan is finally forced to get tough on apartheid. Perhaps hitting closest to home was the civil rights legislation that was developed, often with passions flaring, right in front of his eyes even as his own community of neighbors, friends, and family were contending with Jim Crow America.

Review:

"Wil Haygood blends the political with the personal in this portrait of White House butler Eugene Allen. Allen, an African-American, served eight US presidents (from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan) for 34 years — a span of time that included remarkable gains in civil rights." The Christian Science Monitor

Review:

"When Haygood (Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson, 2009, etc.) was covering the campaign of Barack Obama in 2008, he knew beyond any doubt that the former Illinois senator 'was indeed going to get to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, to the White House.' It was then that the author decided to see whether he could locate a black person 'from the era of segregation' who had been a presidential servant. His investigations led him to an unassuming man named Eugene Allen....Allen's story, which began as a front-page article in the Post, would become the subject of a much-anticipated film, The Butler, which Haygood also discusses in context of the fraught and elided history of African-Americans in Hollywood. The book is brief, but the two sections and many images of Allen's quietly extraordinary life speak volumes about a nation struggling, and succeeding by degrees, to come to terms with an ignominious history of racial inequality. Poignant and powerful." Kirkus Reviews

Synopsis:

From Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Humanities fellow Wil Haygood comes 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, Oprah Winfrey (honorary and nominee), Jane Fonda, Cuba Gooding Jr., Vanessa Redgrave, and Robin Williams; as well as Oscar nominee Terrence Howard, Mariah Carey, John Cusack, Lenny Kravitz, James Marsden, David Oyelowo, Alex Pettyfer, Alan Rickman, and Liev Schreiber.

With a foreword by the Academy Award nominated director Lee Daniels, 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.

About the Author

A Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Humanities fellow and a writer for the Washington Post, Wil Haygood has been described as a cultural historian. He is the author of a trio of iconic biographies. His King of the Cats: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., told the story of the enigmatic New York congressman and was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. That was followed — after publication of a family memoir — by In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis, Jr., which was awarded the ASCAP Deems Taylor Music Biography Award, the Zora Neale Hurston-Richard Wright Legacy Award, and the Nonfiction Book of the Year Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. In 2009, he wrote Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson, which told the story of the famed New York pugilist known as much for his prowess in the ring as his elegant style outside of it. Haygood is an associate producer of Lee Daniels' The Butler.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

The Lost Entwife, November 26, 2013 (view all comments by The Lost Entwife)
There are no words to describe how disappointed I was by The Butler by Wil Haygood. What I was expecting was a book about Eugene Allen - you know, the famous man who was the White House butler and served eight American Presidents. Basically, you know, what was written in the summary of the book. But I should have been forewarned because look at the first line of that summary - it's a lauding of all of the accolades of Wil Haygood. And that's ultimately what The Butler was about - Wil Haywood's story as he sought out the man who inspired the story.

I really looked forward to this book. I knew the movie was coming out based somewhat on the story, but before I go to movies about figures in history, recent or no, I enjoy reading up on them. I thought that this book would provide me with the story, the one that the movie would tell in abbreviated form. And, in hindsight, I should have known better because there were just over 100 pages in The Butler - not nearly enough pages to do justice to Allen's story.

Additionally, this book had so much name dropping and so much of Haygood's story mixed in that I was left thirsting for more about Allen. When Allen was introduced into the mix and Haygood's meeting with him was discussed, I felt like I was attending a feast and gobbled up all of the information. But then the story moved toward the production of the movie and I just did not care. The background of the movie, the story of Haygood - none of that mattered to me. I wanted to know all of Eugene's story: what his life was like growing up, what his time in the White House was like, what stories he could tell of presidents (current and past) - I wanted to know it all. But I didn't get it. I felt gypped.

Thank goodness I did not pay for The Butler. I received it from the publisher for review and nearly threw it across the room in frustration. If you are looking for Eugene Allen's story, don't pick this one up. If you are interested in the background to the movie and the work of the author in putting together the story, then it's a book to pick up (although I still don't recommend it).
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
kanni, August 25, 2013 (view all comments by kanni)
I love this book! It's not often that a book elicits the emotions in me that this book did. The story of Eugene Allen, his service as butler to eight presidents and his relationship with his wife and son is a beautiful story. It was also interesting to read about the making of the movie based on Eugene's life working in the White House. I highly recommend reading "The Butler".
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781476752990
Subtitle:
A Witness to History
Author:
Haygood, Wil
Publisher:
37 Ink
Subject:
Historical
Subject:
Biography-Historical
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20130730
Binding:
Hardback
Language:
English
Illustrations:
2x16-pg 4/C inserts
Pages:
112
Dimensions:
7.5 x 6 in

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
Biography » Historical
Featured Titles » History and Social Science
History and Social Science » African American Studies » General
History and Social Science » Economics » General
History and Social Science » US History » General

The Butler: A Witness to History Used Hardcover
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$12.50 In Stock
Product details 112 pages 37 Ink - English 9781476752990 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Wil Haygood blends the political with the personal in this portrait of White House butler Eugene Allen. Allen, an African-American, served eight US presidents (from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan) for 34 years — a span of time that included remarkable gains in civil rights."
"Review" by , "When Haygood (Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson, 2009, etc.) was covering the campaign of Barack Obama in 2008, he knew beyond any doubt that the former Illinois senator 'was indeed going to get to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, to the White House.' It was then that the author decided to see whether he could locate a black person 'from the era of segregation' who had been a presidential servant. His investigations led him to an unassuming man named Eugene Allen....Allen's story, which began as a front-page article in the Post, would become the subject of a much-anticipated film, The Butler, which Haygood also discusses in context of the fraught and elided history of African-Americans in Hollywood. The book is brief, but the two sections and many images of Allen's quietly extraordinary life speak volumes about a nation struggling, and succeeding by degrees, to come to terms with an ignominious history of racial inequality. Poignant and powerful."
"Synopsis" by , From Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Humanities fellow Wil Haygood comes 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, Oprah Winfrey (honorary and nominee), Jane Fonda, Cuba Gooding Jr., Vanessa Redgrave, and Robin Williams; as well as Oscar nominee Terrence Howard, Mariah Carey, John Cusack, Lenny Kravitz, James Marsden, David Oyelowo, Alex Pettyfer, Alan Rickman, and Liev Schreiber.

With a foreword by the Academy Award nominated director Lee Daniels, 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.

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