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The Black History of the White House photo

Source: Jerry Wells / Jerry Wells

Ever since I first learned how, I’ve loved to read. I read nearly anything and everything that crosses my path, from the back of a cereal box to weighty academic publications (if I can get through them!) If I had to pick a favorite genre, it would be autobiographies of famous people, but by no means do I limit myself to that category. Also, I try to make sure I buy copies of books written by people whom I know personally. A good number of friends, colleagues and acquaintances have become published authors.

My latest “read,” though, doesn’t fit any of the above categories. It was recommended by a friend and it’s titled The Black History of the White House, written by historian and college professor Dr. Clarence Lusane. I’m a little over halfway through it. It’s a fascinating and eye-opening history of the White House and the United States Presidency’s involvement (and non-involvement) in the historical struggles of African Americans in the U.S., from slavery through abolition, the Civil War, reconstruction, Jim Crow, and civil rights, up to the present. I’ve been learning so much about US history! SPOILER ALERT! Did you know that fully 1/4 of US presidents were slaveholders; that slaves were held in the White House itself; that the main reason that the colonies rebelled against British rule in the Revolutionary War was that the British were in the process of abolishing slavery in their colonies? I didn’t – and trust me, there’s lots more! Every US President from Washington to Obama figures in this history and the cast of characters includes figures from history like Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Booker T. Washington and more, up to Martin Luther King Jr., Paul Robeson, A. Philip Randolph, Jesse Jackson and more.

I find this book especially relevant as we come to the end of the second term of our country’s first African American president and in light of the impending contentious and historic presidential election; the Black Lives Matter movement; widespread shootings of Blacks by police officers etc.

Not just one man’s historical perspective, The Black History of the White House is researched with scholarly thoroughness, and includes an extensive bibliography and footnotes. Dr. Lusane, an assistant professor of Political Science at American University, is the writer of at least a half dozen additional books dealing mostly with race and historical events, and the people affected by them.

Part of the “Open Media Series” from City Lights Books, in my humble opinion, “The Black History of the White House” is a worthy addition to your bookshelf!

Jerry Wells

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