cover image The Butler: A Witness to History

The Butler: A Witness to History

Wil Haygood. Atria, $18 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-1-47675-2990

In 2008, journalist Haygood pitched a feature to The Washington Post following his hunch that Barack Obama would be elected president. Seeking an African-American who had worked in the White House during the Civil Rights era, Haygood found Eugene Al-len, a butler during eight presidential administrations. In this expansion of his original essay, Haygood chronicles Allen's eventful life: from his humble beginnings on a Virginia plantation, through his time comforting John F. Kennedy, and into old age, when he cast his vote for the first black president. In the essay "Moving Image," Haygood traces the history of blacks in cinema beginning with D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation to the career of Sidney Poitier and the blaxploitation films of the 1970s. He also reports from the set of The Butler%E2%80%94the film inspired by his article%E2%80%94interviewing a range of cast and crew members. Haygood notes major events that occurred during Allen's career, including Brown v Board of Education and the 1986 passing of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act. Upon Allen's death, the London Independent recalled him as "a discreet stage hand who for three decades helped keep the show running in the most important political theatre of all." Haygood has done well to preserve Allen's memory. Photos. (Sept.)