Friday, September 06, 2013

The Butler: A Witness to History by Wil Haygood

I've heard a couple people say the movie, The Butler, wasn't quite what they expected. I think they should try the book. Wil Haygood wrote the original article that led to the making of the movie. Now, in The Butler: A Witness to History, he tells the actual story of Eugene Allen, the White House butler whose story was fictionalized for the movie

In the days of the Obama campaign, Haygood was looking for someone who had worked in the White House, who had lived through the history that led to Obama's historic campaign. It took him a while to track down Eugene Allen who had been a butler at the White House for thirty-four years in eight presidential administrations from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan. "He was both a witness to history and unknown to it", a man who saw the civil rights movement as few others did, from within and outside the White House.

Haygood's fascinating little book is in two parts. The first is the story of the story of Haygood's search for Eugene Allen, and Haygood's subsequent visit with Allen and his wife, Helene. The second part seems to have come about as a result of the movie, The Butler. It's a look at blacks in cinema, again a very interesting part of the book.

Wil Haygood's The Butler: A Witness to History is the story of a discreet, charming man. And, admittedly, he wrote the book after the movie was filmed. There are a number of pictures, first of Eugene Allen and Helene, then scenes from the movie itself. I haven't seen the movie, but, from what I've heard, one of my favorite buttons sums it up. "The book was better." If you're interested in the true story, maybe not embellished and fleshed out, try the book.

The Butler: A Witness to History by Wil Haygood. Atria. 2013. ISBN 9781476752990 (hardcover), 96p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

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