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The Black History of the White House (City Lights Open Media) Paperback – January 1, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

From 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.
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From 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. 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. --Vanessa Bush
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Product Details

  • Series: City Lights Open Media
  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: City Lights Publishers; 1 edition (January 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0872865320
  • ISBN-13: 978-0872865327
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #227,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Luchi1012 on August 11, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book is an eye opener. I am a layman, not a college professor, or a huge intellect...just a person that likes to read. It is a history book about African-Americans in relation to the White House, beginning with a slave who escaped from George Washington! The reasoning was amazing in this incident. Discusses slaves who built the White House and Black people who have worked as servants, and employees. Discusses several outstanding Black people that left a mark on history, even though they were slaves! Goes thru history of United States, presidency by presidency, and their ATTITUDES and TREATMENT and LAWS during each term. Tells about first Blacks invited to White House for special occasions and for entertainment. Covers all the way to President Obama. Very readable through most of it. Very eye opening. Wrote of many incidents in recent months which I read about in the news. Not perfect, a few things dragged a bit, but I'd give it 4.5 stars. I am very glad I read it. It opened my eyes and made me very conscious of a lot that is happening during this presidency. I highly recommend it. It had to have been painful for Dr. Lusane to do the research for this book. Our country definitely has a black eye when it comes to race relations.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By AJ on June 23, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If we had history text books like this when I was in high school and college, I would not have despised or disliked history as much as I did. This book is challenging to read and I am still reading it. I am enjoying every page of it. I hate I missed out on so much in the text books. Highly recommended!!!!
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33 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia K. Robertson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 8, 2011
Format: Paperback
I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up The Black History of the White House by Clarence Lusane. Although this was a very ambitious effort, I think that Lusane tried to do too much here.

I did expect that Black History would contain personal stories of those black men and women affiliated with the White House, and these stories were quite good. I enjoyed reading about Hercules and Oney (George Washington's slaves), Elizabeth Keckley (Mary Lincoln's seamstress) and Abraham Boldon (the first black Secret Service agent to see in the White House). The story of Michelle Obama's slave ancestors is fascinating. And I enjoyed reading about the building of the White House. It is here that Lusane is at his best. Lusane also talks about the black leaders who visited the White House and black entertainers who were brought in for guests. He discusses the black advisors and cabinet members who served various presidents. He runs down the list of just about every black person who ran for president, and of course, he ends with Barack Obama. In between, he relates presidential policies about blacks, segregation, discrimination, lynching, Jim Crow, Supreme Court rulings and the Civil Rights movement. The author even includes a section on fictional black presidents in arts and literature. It was as if Lusane Googled black history in America and then tried to include anything and everything that appeared.

Although I enjoyed much of Black History, I had many issues with this book. First, it is filled with errors that should have been easy to catch. George Washington lived in the President's House in Philadelphia for 7 years, not 9. And he left Philadelphia at the end of his term, 1797, and not 1799.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By ann chinn on October 2, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There were so many little things, details that Mr. Lusane included. It is a must read for everyone. This certainly presented a broader perspective on the present: Black man in the White House. Underlying prejudices, behaviors, comments reflect the fact that today we are not "post-racial" but living off centuries of racism. When the press continuously fails to refer to our national head of state as President Obama but simply Obama what message does that convey? Is this a case of new bottle, old wine?

An eye opener for persons interested in the systemic history of power and race in the U.S.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Bruce Roller on May 14, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The scholarly portions of the writing bog the book down just a little, but there are enough stories of real people that come to life and make this history poignant, frightening and in 2013 hopeful that a curtain has been opened on the big stage of US history. Our founding fathers come off more human and foible-prone than we like. Racism is part of the fabric of our country, and it hurts us all. This book trims away some of the categories and gives us a look at real people--black and white--in all of their (and our) complexity. I recommend it to history buffs, political observers, people who are combatting racism and people who care about the US and our humanity.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By chris d. on September 22, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is well researched, well written. It took a while to get through (the book) because I kept going back to verify the information. This is a behind the scenes look at the personal relations between the races of those who set the American policies. This book calls for a reexamination of every statement in the American constitution, and helps to explain the current political maneuvers. -- Chris
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While I am only about a third thru the book, I find it amazing and awesome to read about a history that has been suppressed in my education travails. Schools have given us a wonderful froth of history in this area, but kept irritable areas from its proper place in understanding the early foundation of this country. I cannot wait to finish the book, and in the reading, expand my horizon of understanding, and perhaps, forgiving the enslavement mentality of the nation from its early days, and, more modernly, to our present state of affairs....in all parts of the country. Many thanks to the author for the readable and un-settlling view of our nation's history. Thanks.
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The Black History of the White House (City Lights Open Media)
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