The Black History of the White House

By Clarence Lusane
(City Lights Publishers, Paperback, 9780872865327, 544pp.)

Publication Date: August 2010

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The untold history and politics of the White House from the perspective of African Americans.

Thursday, Feb 3, 2011

In The Black History of the White House, Clarence Lusane traces the country's race relations by telling the stories of the African-American men and women who built, worked at and visited the presidential home. More at

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Praise For The Black History of the White House

"Lusane's scholarship and passion make this a compelling book, and one which all students of US foreign policy and the politics of Black America should consider an invaluable text."-Bill Fletcher "Lusane has created a groundbreaking analysis of the intersection of racial politics and American foreign policy."-Institute for Policy Studies "This thoroughly researched analysis of the twisted relationship between the U.S. racial politics and U.S. foreign policy is a must-read for both academics and activists."-Howard Winant

"The historical patterns elucidated within Lusane's work will have a profound impact on the perceptions of social work students (BSW and MSW). Concepts of race relationships will be altered. In addition, I found that the biographical sketches are reminiscent of Kennedy's Profiles in Courage. . . . The book will be a great asset to the intellectual and emotional development of social work students."--Journal of Social Work Values & Ethics

"Dr. Clarence Lusane, program director for Comparative and Regional Studies at American University, painted an interesting link between African Americans and the White House dating all the way back to its construction. Throughout the course of his research, Dr. Lusane found that slave labor was used in the construction of the White House and other buildings in Washington, D.C.
His book, The Black History of the White House, will certainly be a lesson to us all." -- Amber Gray, The Bulletin, Vol. 23, No. 3 August 2011

"The Obamas were the first African American first family, but not the first residents. This thoroughly researched and gripping book shares the untold stories of some of the people who were enslaved by U.S. presidents, including stories of resistance and escape. Lusane describes the myriad ways that the White House and the lives of African Americans have been intertwined throughout U.S. history. This is the only book to document this essential story in our country's history."--Rethinking Schools

"Clarence Lusane's Black History of the White House came out late last year and flew under the radar at most of the major book reviews. But Lusane is an elegant, impassioned writer, and the book—which is full of stories we’d never encountered in American History 101—is totally engrossing.--The Observer's "Very Short List"

"Lusane's effort is much more than a catchy title or revisionist tome: it's an eye-opening tribute and a provocative reminder of the many narratives that have gone untold."--Publishers Weekly

"The author concludes from his research that there is little doubt the first African American in the White House was a slave. In fact, 25 percent of our presidents were slaveholders. And between the time of slavery and now — with our nation's first black president — there is a long and storied history of blacks in the White House, from servants to lobbyists to Secret Service agents, reporters, activists, officials and more."Chicago Sun Times

"In illuminating the central role Blacks played in this country's history, Lusane charts the course of race relations in the Untied States."--The Philadelphia Tribune

"Those who think they know their presidents may be in for surprises in Clarence Lusane's fascinating social history . . ."--USA Today

"In eloquent language, Lusane shows how the African American experience helped shape a series of presidential administrations and governmental policies." --Sacramento Bee

"The White House was built with slave labor and at least six US presidents owned slaves during their time in office. With these facts, Clarence Lusane, a political science professor at American University, opens 'The Black History of the White House'(City Lights), a fascinating story of race relations that plays out both on the domestic front and the international stage. As Lusane writes, 'The Lincoln White House resolved the issue of slavery, but not that of racism.' Along with the political calculations surrounding who gets invited to the White House are matters of musical tastes and opinionated first ladies, ingredients that make for good storytelling."--Boston Globe

"Despite the racial progress represented by the election of the first black president of the U.S., the nation's capital has a very complicated and often unflattering racial history. Lusane traces the racial history of the White House from George Washington to Barack Obama."--Booklist

"Slaves have toiled in the White House; 25 percent of our Presidents were slaveholders. Lusane reminds readers of the place of the President's house, from its very construction onward, in African American history, a tale all-too rarely told."--Library Journal

" . . . carefully documents the travails of a polity in which African-Americans were so essential and prevalent, but that struggled endlessly to maintain, then dismantle, the institution of slavery. . . . A lively, opinionated survey, telling a story that the textbooks too often overlook."--Kirkus Reviews

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