The Butler

The Butler

A Witness to History

Book - 2013
Average Rating:
Rate this:
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. With a foreword by the Academy Award-- nominated director Lee Daniels, the butler 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.
Publisher: New York : 37 Ink/Atria, ©2013.
Edition: First 37 InkAtrica Books hardcover edition.
ISBN: 9781476752990
Characteristics: xii, 96 pages, 32 unnumbered pages of plates :,illustrations (some color) ;,20 cm
Alternative Title: Butler (motion picture)


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Jun 03, 2018

What a dumb little nothing book this is. It did, however, inspire me to add the film "The Butler" to my watch list as well as to read the story which inspired both this book and that film: "A Butler Well Served by This Election" (Will Haywood, Washington Post). Save your own time and seek out either of these options before reaching for this book.

Jan 21, 2018

I thought the book was a disappointment. Not what I was expecting. Watch the movie!

Aug 28, 2017

I loved Eugene Allen's story. It is worth taking this out for that. It only comprises about half the book though. The other half was, to me, the self-serving story of how this man's story was produced into a Hollywood spectacle. I haven't seen the film and don't want to; I am not interested in what Oprah Winfrey or anyone else thinks of the movie-making process. I would have loved to learn more about Mr. Allen.

Jul 22, 2014

The movie that was made based on this book related the story well. I actually seen the movie first but wanted to read the book to see if the movie told the story correctly.

bookfanatic1979 Jun 19, 2014

If you’re looking for a traditional birth-to-present biography of Eugene Allen, you’re going to want to keep looking. Ditto if you were hoping for an in-depth “behind the scenes” glimpse of what life in the White House was like during different presidencies. This seems to a compilation of various “fly on the wall” moments of varying aspects of Allen’s life, presidencies, the making of the movie, and cinematographic history.

Dec 23, 2013

Very interesting story and lots of great pictures. Can't wait to see the movie.

Sep 26, 2013

How True Is The Butler?


Add Notices
Sep 23, 2013

Other: Release date August 16, 2013 (USA)

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at Library

To Top