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The Butler: A Witness to History Hardcover – July 30, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Atria / 37 Ink; First Edition edition (July 30, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476752990
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476752990
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (494 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,493 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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)

"The Butler: A Witness to History should get just as much, if not more, attention than the film which uses its story for thematic foundation. Wil Haygood adds Eugene Allen’s chronicle to his impressive list of essential works on great figures in black and American history." (ArtsNash)

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.

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Customer Reviews

I was looking to read the book instead of seeing the movie.
Barbara dilley
The history that was shared was very good and provided additional insight to the times.
Velma May
I certainly hope the movie "The Butler" is better than the book.
Linda Allen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

232 of 242 people found the following review helpful By SheriZ on August 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book because I wanted to read the full story of the butler's life and time in the White House. Instead, it was an article about the writer meeting the butler and his wife. It took me less than an hour to read the entire part about the butler. Halfway through the book the butler dies and the book becomes a book about blacks in film. Not what I paid for or wanted.
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156 of 163 people found the following review helpful By LaToia Ormond on August 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was expecting some interesting facts and a great storyline... But what I got was information about the movie. Waste of money... Quite disappointed!
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146 of 154 people found the following review helpful By Frequent Traveler on August 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A complete waste of money. Nothing more than a promo news release for the movie. This is the worst excuse for a book I've ever read. Read the movie reviews, you'll get more out if it for nothing.
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78 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Richard Reynolds on August 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
It's worth taking a few moments to look at the structure of this slim book about Eugene Allen, a worker in the White House from 1952 to 1986, who served under eight presidents.
After a two page foreword by Lee Daniels, director of the coming movie also titled "The Butler," we read how author Wil Haygood meets Eugene Allen and his wife, Helene, how he learns of Allen's early life and being hired to work in the White House, and his viewing of Allen's memorabilia in a basement room. Haygood's interviews with Allen reveal some interesting moments during his thirty-four years of service but nothing that we would call salacious gossip. Discretion was and is the key to loyal and successful service in such hallowed halls. All of this is covered in the first forty-four pages including a short aside by Haygood on his own life as a writer.
The next thirty-four pages deal with the filming of the movie in New Orleans and a discussion of how black people have been portrayed in movies. Haygood gives us background information on how difficult it was to get the movie produced and comments about actors such as Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey and Cuba Gooding, Jr., all of whom are in the movie.
The final section of the book is brief and gives two pages each about five different presidents from Eisenhower to Reagan, chief executives whom Eugene Allen was privileged to know and serve.
In summary, this book seems more of an inflated promotion pamphlet for the movie rather than a suitable coverage of Eugene Allen's life and White House career. We see pictures of the five presidents mentioned but there isn't a picture of Eugene Allen anywhere in the book; that's a serious discrepancy in my view.
If this subject interests you, I suggest seeing the movie and hope it tells a better story about Eugene and Helen Allen than this book does.
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91 of 98 people found the following review helpful By TC on August 3, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very disappointing waste of money. I hoped to read the book before seeing the movie. The book was essentially how the movie was made and not the story itself.
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50 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Catherine on August 4, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
This should be a Kindle single. It is sort of a forward to what could be a very interesting book. Save your money.
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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Sandra Dunn on August 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like another reviewer I was hoping to read the book before the movie...this is a lame very short few pages about the butler..rest about all the stupid celebrities in movie...waste of $$.
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81 of 96 people found the following review helpful By Leslie N. Patino on July 30, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There's no doubt Wil Haygood is an experienced journalist and writer who can craft a fine story. He certainly does so in telling the story of Eugene Allen, the exceptional man who served as a White House butler for thirty-four years under eight presidents. In the first section of the book (Allen's story), I was cheering on both Allen and Haygood. The final section of photos showing Allen with family members and dignitaries adds to the appeal of the book. Reading about the years of work to get "The Butler" filmed got me pumped to see movie when it's released in a few weeks.

There were a couple of things about the book that I didn't care for so much. First, it seemed like a long PR roll-out for the movie. Second, it's a good review of the history, roles and successes of African-Americans in the last sixty or so years, but the sections seemed cobbled together to make this 112-page book. The first part is Allen's story. The second part is the movie's story. The third has one-and-a-half-page summaries of the five presidents Allen's fictional version serves in the movie. I can only guess that this part is meant as a primer for movie-goers to read beforehand.

Overall, "The Butler: A Witness to History," is an educational and inspirational read on a subject that we Americans--regardless of color--frequently don't handle well.
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