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The Butler

by Wil Haygood

A mesmerizing inquiry into the life of Eugene Allen, the butler who ignited a nation's sympathy and inspired a major motion picture directed by Oscar nominee Lee Daniels, The Butler--which stars Oprah Winfrey and eight Oscar winners (including Forest Whitaker, Vanessa Redgrave, Robin Williams, Cuba Gooding Jr. , and Jane Fonda), and is already being hailed as epic and buzz-worthy. Coming this fall from The Weinstein Company. Acclaimed Washington Post reporter Wil Haygood had an early hunch that Obama would win the 2008 election and when he did he wanted to publish an article about a black person who had worked in the White House as a servant, 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 less than eight presidents, from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan-and in so doing became "a discreet stage hand 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 a moon landing; 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 finally got 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. Also included in the book is an essay in the vein of James Baldwin's jewel, The Devil Finds Work, that explores the history of blacks in Hollywood as well as over 45 pictures of the butler, Eugene Allen, and his family, the Presidents he served, and the remarkable cast.

The Butler: A Witness to History

by Wil Haygood

From Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Humanities fellow Wil Haygood comes a mesmerizing inquiry into the life of Eugene Allen, the butler who ignited a nation's imagination and inspired a major motion picture: Lee Daniels' The Butler, the highly anticipated film that stars six Oscar winners, including Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey (honorary and nominee), Jane Fonda, Cuba Gooding Jr., Vanessa Redgrave, and Robin Williams; as well as Oscar nominee Terrence Howard, Mariah Carey, John Cusack, Lenny Kravitz, James Marsden, David Oyelowo, Alex Pettyfer, Alan Rickman, and Liev Schreiber. With a foreword by the Academy Award nominated director Lee Daniels, The Butler not only explores Allen's life and service to eight American Presidents, from Truman to Reagan, but 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.

Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson

by Wil Haygood

Sugar Ray Robinson was one of the most iconic figures in sports and possibly the greatest boxer of all time. His legendary career spanned nearly 26 years, including his titles as the middleweight and welterweight champion of the world and close to 200 professional bouts. This illuminating biography grounds the spectacular story of Robinson's rise to greatness within the context of the fighter's life and times. Born Walker Smith Jr. in 1921, Robinson's early childhood was marked by the seething racial tensions and explosive race riots that infected the Midwest throughout the 1920s and 1930s. After his mother moved their family to Harlem, he came of age in the post-Renaissance years. Recounting his local and national fame, this deeply researched and honest account depicts Robinson as an eccentric and glamorous-yet powerful and controversial-celebrity, athlete, and cultural symbol. From Robinson's gruesome six-bout war with Jake "Raging Bull" LaMotta and his lethal meeting with Jimmy Doyle to his Harlem nightclub years and thwarted showbiz dreams, Haygood brings the champion's story to life.

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