Author Discusses His New Book: The Black History of the White House
Protection of the institution of slavery was the price the South demanded for joining the United States in the revolt against Britain, and the North was also “absolutely invested in the slave system,” says Dr. Clarence Lusane. Dr. Lusane’s new book, from City Lights Publishers, details George Washington’s desperate efforts to gain the return of his prized personal slaves who successfully fled the presidential residence in Philadelphia.
During the Civil War, for the first time, Frederick Douglass and others negotiated with an American president on the political status and fate of Blacks. Yet, four decades later, Booker T. Washington’s sit-down dinner with President Teddy Roosevelt resulted in such an explosion of racist anger, the next day Roosevelt formally named the presidential mansion the “White House” in order to mollify white opinion.
During FDR’s term, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt largely eliminated segregation at the White House by firing all of the white household staff and keeping the Blacks. In the early Sixties, the political tradition of regularly hosting delegations of Blacks at the White House was established. With President Obama’s family ensconced in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the Black image has been enhanced. However, “in many ways there has been less of an ability to address issues of race” under Obama, “as Black working and poor people are erased out of public policy discussion,” says Dr. Lusane.
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