The Black Cabinet: The Untold Story of African Americans and Politics During the Age of Roosevelt

Jill Watts. Grove, $30 (560p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2910-9
Watts (Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambition, White Hollywood), a professor of history at California State University, San Marcos, delivers a unique and enlightening portrait of “the informal group of black federal employees” who sought to advance African-American interests during the New Deal. Led by Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of Bethune-Cookman College and a friend of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, the “Black Cabinet” included housing expert Robert C. Weaver, attorney William H. Hastie, and Robert Vann, editor of the Pittsburgh Courier and a leading advocate for shifting black votes from Republicans to Democrats. Watts details the group’s internecine political quarrels as well as their efforts to integrate the federal workplace, end “race-based wage differentials,” and rally support for antilynching legislation, among other objectives. Lesser-known civil servants such as Lucia Mae Pitts, “the first African American woman to serve as a secretary to a white federal administrator in Washington, D.C.,” receive overdue attention, as does the influence of the black press on Roosevelt’s staffing decisions. Watts finds drama in committee meetings and unemployment surveys, and expertly tracks her subjects across the maze of federal bureaucracy. The result is a groundbreaking reappraisal of an unheralded chapter in the battle for civil rights. Agent: Victoria Sanders, Victoria Sanders & Associates. (May)
Reviewed on : 02/07/2020
Release date: 05/12/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 560 pages - 978-0-8021-4866-7
Open Ebook - 978-0-8021-4692-2
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