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The Senator and the Socialite: The True Story of America's First Black Dynasty Paperback – July 3, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
Graham's new book is like "Our Kind of People" on steroids. In "The Senator and The Socialite", Graham actually found a black family that epitomizes the black upperclass he talked about in his first book. Although this is a history book about the first black senator --a man named Blanch Bruce from Missisippi, the book reads like a novel. Almost like a movie. It's got everything in it. A former slave marries a light skinned free black woman. The couple becomes the richest black family in D.C. in the 1870s. They hang out with President Grant and Frederick Douglass. Their kids go to Harvard and Radcliffe and the daughter not only gets a law degree at Boston University, she becomes head of the law review. Graham is clearly fixated on high-living rich people because he even talks about how much money the Senator spends at Saks Fifth Avenue store in 1880-something. He's got details on the size of their houses (imagine, black folks who owned an 800 acre plantation, plus houses in D.C.Read more ›
We are introduced to Blanche Bruce as a young slave, the son of a slave woman and her white owner. The author gives us some idea of the complexity and varieties of the slave experience, when he shows us a society where some slaves were permitted to read and write, became educated, had a fairly good relationship with their owners, acquired money and property, had aspirations and families, and were sometimes voluntarily freed by the people who owned them (and who were frequently related to them!) When we think of slavery we think of Simon Legrees, whips and chains. Those surely existed but the entire tapestry was a bit more variegated.
Therefore, with emancipation, Bruce was already prepared to succeed. By his natural talents, Bruce becomes a wealthy land owner and political figure in Mississippi. We read about a truly bizarre world in which people who were considered property only a short time before are running state governments, engaging in politics, publishing newspapers, starting businesses and trying to find a modus vivendi with a white America and, particularly a white Dixie, which couldn't believe what was happening.Read more ›
It is a controversial political family, accused by many that the offices were used to consolidate power rather than assist those in need;
It is a family that seemingly rejects some relatives, as members who aren't "high enough" on the social ladder are hardly acknowledged;
It is a family whose progeny simply cannot maintain the financial and social standing set forth by an extraordinary (grand)father and (grand)mother.
The outstanding research by Lawrence Otis Graham brings to life the rise and fall of a family that has never received its due from the so-called history books in high schools and colleges.
After putting the book down you will appreciate the challenges and burdens surrounding the family and perhaps realize that some of the travils are roads you may have traveled, though perhaps to a lesser degree.
Blanche Bruce, the senator, was a slave for 23 years. While it might have been easy to allow a less than desirable beginning to hold him back, Blanche was made of sterner stuff. The son of a slave and a white master, he rose from slavery to become a landowner of an 800-acre plantation and a variety of rental properties. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1874. He gained appointments under no less than four presidents and was the first black man to have his name printed on U.S. currency. He also married a beautiful black woman from a prominent family.
Josephine Willson, the socialite from Philadelphia and daughter of a doctor, was a fitting companion for an ambitious man. She married the senator in 1878. Their society wedding in the Episcopal Church and four-month European honeymoon were only a sign of the good things yet to come. Josephine possessed a light complexion, a blessing when it came to being accepted by white Republicans and society and a curse when it came to the presidency of the National Council of Colored Women.
The senator and the socialite would become a powerful duo complementing each other perfectly and rising to great heights. This is the story of their humble beginnings and great accomplishments. The book is also peppered with an impressive number of names from America's past and interesting facts that shaped the history of our country.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
So it's wasn't like a page turner I can't put this down novel but as a lover of history especially African American history LOVED IT.Published 12 months ago by Fayth Green
great historical backround on a very painful part of our country's and as spellbinding as any fiction, though the reader knows it's based on fact. BeverlyPublished 13 months ago by Beverly
I didn't like this book but it was a gift for someone who did like it.Published 17 months ago by Alicia S.
Although I appreciate the clarity with which Mr Graham presents the lives of Blanche Bruce and his family, I don't like the misrepresentation of the North. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Ria
This book gets three stars for the following reasons...
Lawrence Otis Graham is NOT a likeable man. He is a vain elitist in desperate need of a wake call. Read more
THIS BOOK WAS SO GOOD AND INFORMATIVE THAT I HAVE READ IT THREE TIMES. I ORDERED IT AFTER GETTING IT FROM THE LIBRARY FOR MY PERSONAL LIBRARY.Published on April 21, 2014 by PrinceQue
It is so informative! It is a MUST READ for every American regardless of your race or creed. However every African American child should be required to read this bookPublished on February 19, 2014 by D. Brazzle