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From Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Humanities fellow Wil Haygood comes a mesmerizing inquiry into the life of Eugene Allen, the butler who ignited a nation's imagination and inspired a major motion picture: Lee Daniels' The Butler, the highly anticipated film that stars six Oscar winners, including Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey (honorary and nominee), Jane Fon From Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Humanities fellow Wil Haygood comes a mesmerizing inquiry into the life of Eugene Allen, the butler who ignited a nation's imagination and inspired a major motion picture: Lee Daniels' The Butler, the highly anticipated film that stars six Oscar winners, including Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey (honorary and nominee), Jane Fonda, Cuba Gooding Jr., Vanessa Redgrave, and Robin Williams; as well as Oscar nominee Terrence Howard, Mariah Carey, John Cusack, Lenny Kravitz, James Marsden, David Oyelowo, Alex Pettyfer, Alan Rickman, and Liev Schreiber. With a foreword by the Academy Award nominated director Lee Daniels, The Butler not only explores Allen's life and service to eight American Presidents, from Truman to Reagan, but also includes an essay, in the vein of James Baldwin’s jewel The Devil Finds Work, that explores the history of black images on celluloid and in Hollywood, and fifty-seven pictures of Eugene Allen, his family, the presidents he served, and the remarkable cast of the movie.


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From Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Humanities fellow Wil Haygood comes a mesmerizing inquiry into the life of Eugene Allen, the butler who ignited a nation's imagination and inspired a major motion picture: Lee Daniels' The Butler, the highly anticipated film that stars six Oscar winners, including Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey (honorary and nominee), Jane Fon From Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Humanities fellow Wil Haygood comes a mesmerizing inquiry into the life of Eugene Allen, the butler who ignited a nation's imagination and inspired a major motion picture: Lee Daniels' The Butler, the highly anticipated film that stars six Oscar winners, including Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey (honorary and nominee), Jane Fonda, Cuba Gooding Jr., Vanessa Redgrave, and Robin Williams; as well as Oscar nominee Terrence Howard, Mariah Carey, John Cusack, Lenny Kravitz, James Marsden, David Oyelowo, Alex Pettyfer, Alan Rickman, and Liev Schreiber. With a foreword by the Academy Award nominated director Lee Daniels, The Butler not only explores Allen's life and service to eight American Presidents, from Truman to Reagan, but also includes an essay, in the vein of James Baldwin’s jewel The Devil Finds Work, that explores the history of black images on celluloid and in Hollywood, and fifty-seven pictures of Eugene Allen, his family, the presidents he served, and the remarkable cast of the movie.

30 review for The Butler: A Witness to History

  1. 4 out of 5

    booklady

    I can't say I disliked this book but neither was I satisfied by it. From the title I expected, well, either a biography about the butler himself, Eugene Allen, a man in the unique position of having served eight presidents, or, a story of the life that went on around him while he served those eight presidents and first ladies of our country. This book does neither of those things; or rather it delivers those things in postage stamp size, meanwhile slipping in its own agenda. The book leads off wi I can't say I disliked this book but neither was I satisfied by it. From the title I expected, well, either a biography about the butler himself, Eugene Allen, a man in the unique position of having served eight presidents, or, a story of the life that went on around him while he served those eight presidents and first ladies of our country. This book does neither of those things; or rather it delivers those things in postage stamp size, meanwhile slipping in its own agenda. The book leads off with how the author ‘landed’ the front page story of Mr. Allen’s life for his newspaper, the Washington Post. It emphasized the warm character of Mr. and Mrs. Allen, their lovely home and their pride in the pending election of what they hoped would be the first African American president. All of this would have been fine if the book had then gone on to tell Mr. Allen’s life story from the beginning through to the present day. However that story will have to await another book. In The Butler: A Witness to History we are given only scattered memories interspersed between the more important (?) issues of racial issues in our country, as if Mr. Allen could only see things from African American eyes. Now if I, as a white woman, were to only look at the world through white female eyes and insist the rest of the world around me do the same, I would be accused of single-mindedness at best, prejudice and racial hatred, at worst. I know I must take in the views of others by stepping outside myself. Would I suspect Mr. Allen of any less? No. I don't! There's no doubt Mr. Allen viewed the vast years of history he saw unfold before him as an American, as a human being, as member of the White House staff who also happened to be of African American descent. Furthermore, his exposure to so many different people of widely divergent faiths, ages, races, religions, nationalities as well as both genders, allowed him to value all these people and their perspectives, even and especially those who most needed his compassion. Regretfully, very little of Mr. Allen’s voice is heard in this book. Few of his experiences are related—more’s the pity. Instead, the story of how the author found Mr. Allen is followed by a discussion about how to tell (sell?) this story*. It was no accident then that the book moves on to give a history of the African American people’s struggle to find a voice in Hollywood. Even so, this made for very interesting reading as do all such struggles in the cutthroat world of the stage and theater. However, it did not belong in this biography, even if it purported to be a lead-up to the filming of the book. It was just filler to make up for the biography that wasn’t there. Someone still owes Mr. Allen a real book on his life. All in all disappointing. Doubt I’ll bother with the film. (See message #9 below for update.) *There's an old saying that History is written by the winners. We should be discerning readers, know our authors and check and double check! And then when all is said and done, still be prepared to discover there is so much more to learn...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    This is mainly the story of the making of the film "The Butler." I wanted to story of Eugene Allen, the butler.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Orsolya

    Not many people are privy to the inner-quarters of the White House. One man, however, was let into this sanctum working as a butler for not one but EIGHT US Presidents: Eugene Allen. Furthermore, Allen was a black man during crucial civil times. Will Haygood, the reporter who centralized Allen and inspired the film, “The Butler”, attempts to reveal the man in, “The Butler: A Witness to History”. “The Butler” is not a memoir, portrait, or biography and is rather a choppy, mish-mash of storytellin Not many people are privy to the inner-quarters of the White House. One man, however, was let into this sanctum working as a butler for not one but EIGHT US Presidents: Eugene Allen. Furthermore, Allen was a black man during crucial civil times. Will Haygood, the reporter who centralized Allen and inspired the film, “The Butler”, attempts to reveal the man in, “The Butler: A Witness to History”. “The Butler” is not a memoir, portrait, or biography and is rather a choppy, mish-mash of storytelling basically being a marketing pamphlet for the film. In fact, the size and length is smaller and thinner than a novella. Only the first 28 pages truly focus on Allen and even these are shallow bullet points revealing no more than, “Allen did this at this and this time”. There are absolutely NO revelations of Allen’s background, psyche, thoughts, or even juicy, presidential gossip. The reader will not learn anything about Allen as “The Butler” is best described as an article on Haywood’s existing newspaper coverage. As “The Butler” proceeds, the writing follows a choppy track mentioning some of Haygood’s own life, the history of black butlers and employees, and civil rights. Either Haygood can’t form a steady thought or he was struggling to meet a page quota. Haygood then turns another abrupt 180-degree turn, focusing on the history of black films before detailing the cast, crew, and production of “The Butler” film although even this is nothing more than marketing collateral. “The Butler” concludes with a VERY brief highlighting of the key African American moments during each presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower, JFK, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan which is meant to demonstrate the pivotal moments of history experienced by Allen in his time during White House service but the link in the writing isn’t clear. The only bright linings in “The Butler” are two sections of colorplates including photos of both Allen and the film; and the fact that the book can be read in an hour. “The Butler” is a major disappointment which is comparable to an article in TV Guide, not revealing any personal details of Allen’s life and is basically the story behind the story. There is really NO reason to read “The Butler” and it is, bluntly, a waste of time.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Camille

    *Yawn*

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lydia Presley

    There are no words to describe how disappointed I was by The Butler by Wil Haygood. What I was expecting was a book about Eugene Allen - you know, the famous man who was the White House butler and served eight American Presidents. Basically, you know, what was written in the summary of the book. But I should have been forewarned because look at the first line of that summary - it's a lauding of all of the accolades of Wil Haygood. And that's ultimately what The Butler was about - Wil Haywood's s There are no words to describe how disappointed I was by The Butler by Wil Haygood. What I was expecting was a book about Eugene Allen - you know, the famous man who was the White House butler and served eight American Presidents. Basically, you know, what was written in the summary of the book. But I should have been forewarned because look at the first line of that summary - it's a lauding of all of the accolades of Wil Haygood. And that's ultimately what The Butler was about - Wil Haywood's story as he sought out the man who inspired the story. Read the rest of this review at The Lost Entwife on Dec. 1, 2013.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ruel

    Short and ultimately disappointing read about the man who inspired the title character of The Butler (pardon me, "Lee Daniels' The Butler"). I enjoyed the movie, but this book is nothing more than a rush-to-the-bookstore money grab. There are nice photos of the actual butler, Eugene Allen, with his wife and a few of the presidents he served, along with pictures of the cast. However, there was barely anything added to author Wil Haygood's original article from the Washington Post. Haygood tries to Short and ultimately disappointing read about the man who inspired the title character of The Butler (pardon me, "Lee Daniels' The Butler"). I enjoyed the movie, but this book is nothing more than a rush-to-the-bookstore money grab. There are nice photos of the actual butler, Eugene Allen, with his wife and a few of the presidents he served, along with pictures of the cast. However, there was barely anything added to author Wil Haygood's original article from the Washington Post. Haygood tries to flesh out the story with an overview of blacks in American cinema and the movie's making, but in the end, it's unsatisfying because anyone picking up this book is doing so for one reason only: to learn the real story about the movie's main character. It just seems that Haygood ran out of time to fully capture and do justice to Allen's story, since he tracked him down when Allen was 86 years old. The movie did a fine job of dramatizing his life, but it's a real shame that we won't have the true, in-depth story of Eugene Allen.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kelli

    I don't get it. Wait, I understand what is written, the story line is confusing. Is it a real story? Based loosely on a true story? Completely fake? The beginning was good, it followed a journalist just before Obama won the election, interviewing a butler that had worked with 8 presidents. That's pretty much all you get. No real good stories or anything. Halfway thru, "The Butler" just ends and then, its just a brief history of blacks in film/history. But that part wasn't even spoken from Eugene. I don't get it. Wait, I understand what is written, the story line is confusing. Is it a real story? Based loosely on a true story? Completely fake? The beginning was good, it followed a journalist just before Obama won the election, interviewing a butler that had worked with 8 presidents. That's pretty much all you get. No real good stories or anything. Halfway thru, "The Butler" just ends and then, its just a brief history of blacks in film/history. But that part wasn't even spoken from Eugene. Why did it switch? The first part could have easily been bulked up and been the whole thing.

  8. 5 out of 5

    flaams

    Nice book, not too entertaining but nice. I was looking for something that resembled more the story depicted in the movie rather than the story of how the life of the butler has become a movie, but I enjoyed reading the whole process that stands behind every great movie. The creation of the idea, the research of people who actually believe in the idea, the fundraising, the hiccups, the way they got up again. Quite a pleasant reading

  9. 5 out of 5

    Naomi

    1.5/5 Stars Meh, this book was ALL over the place. Instead of expanded focus of the pretty cool life of a very interesting person, the author took only 45 pages to discuss Eugene Allen and another 50 pages to discuss the movie The Butler. Even the chunk of the time he was talking about EA, it was from the author's perspective. WHAT???

  10. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    I was chosen through the good reads give away program to read this book. The book arrived today (via UPS.) I was very eager to read it. So eager, that I sat down and read the whole thing at once. While the premise of the book is really fascinating: the TRUE story of an African-American man who was born in Virginia and ended up serving in the White House, ultimately as maitre d', under 8 presidents---from Truman to Reagan. He truly had a front row seat to history of all kinds. I think the actual I was chosen through the good reads give away program to read this book. The book arrived today (via UPS.) I was very eager to read it. So eager, that I sat down and read the whole thing at once. While the premise of the book is really fascinating: the TRUE story of an African-American man who was born in Virginia and ended up serving in the White House, ultimately as maitre d', under 8 presidents---from Truman to Reagan. He truly had a front row seat to history of all kinds. I think the actual book was light on what is implied in the publisher's write up. The focus is really on racism in America. Essentially, I think the title is a bit misleading. This book is based on a newspaper article that Mr. Haygood wrote for the Washington Post. It is less about the actual man, Mr. Allen, and more about racism and the making of the movie based on the article. Yes, we do meet the butler and learn a bit about him, but this book is more like a companion to the movie that is going to be released in August. The first third of the book reads like a human interest newspaper article and is about the reporter's search for the butler and his subsequent meeting with him (and his wife) at their home in Northwest Washington. The Allens come across as a very gracious couple who are welcoming and do share some stories (and artifacts) with the reporter. The rest of the book is about the history of racism in America and in Hollywood and the struggle to make this movie. While that is fine and interesting, I really think an opportunity was missed to share this man's life story. I wanted to hear the "story" of how he ended up in the White House, what he saw, how he felt. Did what he saw impact any of his beliefs or actions? We do hear the bare bones of the story, but I really wanted more detail about his life--the whole of it. I wanted to see photos. I wanted to visit that basement where Mr. Allen kept all kinds of artifacts of his years of service. Ultimately, it was not a satisfying read. In essence, this book really just primed me to see the movie, BUT I know that the movie has altered the story of Mr. Allen for dramatic purposes--enough so that the character in the movie is renamed. The book was the opportunity to tell the story of a man. Instead, I got the story of a social ill.

  11. 4 out of 5

    a & e

    Haha! Just got in Goodreads First Reads! Can't wait to crack open this book or watch the movie for that matter. :D I loved this story. It's nonfiction and unsurprisingly very good. It's a short quick read that isn't drab or boring but has depth and information. I liked it a lot. And now I'm definitely going to go watch the movie when it comes out. The butler's life and life at the time was told in a way that it was very easy to relate to.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    Eugene Allen the man privvy to all things in the White House. I have read the book and then I watched the Movie, I loved the movie more than the book as I found the book a bit choppy in places. Well worth your time though.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Andrew “The Weirdling” Glos

    This wasn’t really the story of the Butler. It was really a story about the story of the Butler, with various other reflections on African American cinema and the presidents from the movie thrown in for good measure. Some one clearly just capitalized on the movie to sell some pages. Disappointing. That said, the book WAS very interesting and I don’t feel like it was wasted time. It just wasn’t what I ha wanted to read or what was advertised.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Angie Fehl

    Author Wil Haygood brings to light the true-life story of Eugene Allen, an African-American man who served as a butler in the White House for 35 years, serving eight different presidents! His time at the White House covered the presidential administrations of Harry Truman through to Ronald Reagan. Allen even shared a birthday with President Ford. :-) Born in 1911, Eugene Allen grew up working various servant positions within white-owned hotels and private residences. During the Depression he foun Author Wil Haygood brings to light the true-life story of Eugene Allen, an African-American man who served as a butler in the White House for 35 years, serving eight different presidents! His time at the White House covered the presidential administrations of Harry Truman through to Ronald Reagan. Allen even shared a birthday with President Ford. :-) Born in 1911, Eugene Allen grew up working various servant positions within white-owned hotels and private residences. During the Depression he found work at a Washington D.C. country club, which eventually led him to his first job at the White House, starting out as a member of the pantry staff. Funny thing was, when asked about those early years, Allen admits that he wasn't even looking for a job (being satisfied with the position at the country club at the time). But he knew that a White House position would hold great prestige, so why not go for it! His starting position on pantry staff earned him $2400 a year. Within just a few years, his hard work and dedication to precision got him a promotion to full-fledged butler. One of the most notable moments after this promotion was being there for President Kennedy's celebration for the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, a fete which included such guests as Langston Hughes & Sammy Davis, Jr. How amazing that night must have been! {Eugene's son, Charles, later mentions that the one and only time he ever saw his father cry was when he got the news of Kennedy's assassination.} Eugene Allen was also there to witness other meetings between prominent figures of Black History. Tragic to read how Booker T. Washington was invited to dine with the president one night but had to be escorted in and out of the White House under the cover of night to avoid an incidents with protesters. Not gonna lie, I felt a little cheated with this one. I picked it up because I wanted to know more about the man behind the movie (Eugene Allen, the real butler, that is). What I felt like I got was an expanded version of the Washington Post article this story originated from. In its entirety, this book is just under 100 pages. Yes, the first half does introduce us to Mr. Allen and his story but I didn't feel like it was enough. Also, I was a little disappointed that Haygood reveals his motivation for finding and meeting Eugene Allen had nothing really to do with the man himself, but more to do with wanting to ride the wave of excitement that was going around the first presidential campaign of Barack Obama. He pretty much just says that he knew he needed to find another powerful story of another African-American that people could get caught up in. While I understand the journalistic motivation, it felt like this story could have benefited from focusing just a little more on Eugene's story itself, not just what it represented in the bigger picture. I was also a little disappointed to read that President Obama didn't seem to make more of an effort to get to know Mr. Allen. But it's pointed out that Allen not only voted for Obama, but stood out in freezing temperatures and himself in declining health to witness the inaugural ceremonies. When Allen passed, the Obamas sent over a bouquet of roses and a canned response letter, read by an administrative aide about Allen's "years of service, patriotism" etc. Obama takes Air Force One a few times a year to my town just to eat at a rib joint here and I'm states away. Shame more couldn't be done for a man having a funeral in the SAME TOWN. All that only covers half of this little book. The second half focuses more on the film adaptation of Eugene Allen's story (starring Forest Whitaker as Allen) and its role in the history of African American cinema as a whole. The second half of the book also looks at other influential movies and actors such as Sidney Poitier and his performances in such pivotal films as In The Heat Of The Night, Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, and, one of my all-time faves, Lilies Of The Field. So while what IS here of Eugene Allen's story is compelling and an important read, I again say I wish there had been more attention put on that story itself, rather than just making it a blip in a larger topic. This short read will provide a means -- for those wanting to be more informed on Black History -- to dip their toes into before tackling weightier and more painful reads (which should also be read, for a well-balanced education). I just wish the guest of honor had been better honored himself.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dick Reynolds

    I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. It’s worth taking a few moments to look at the structure of this slim book about Eugene Allen, a worker in the White House from 1952 to 1986, who served under eight presidents. After a two page foreword by Lee Daniels, director of the coming movie also titled “The Butler,” we read how author Wil Haygood meets Eugene Allen and his wife, Helene, how he learns of Allen’s early life and being hired to work in the White House, and his viewing of Allen’s memor I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. It’s worth taking a few moments to look at the structure of this slim book about Eugene Allen, a worker in the White House from 1952 to 1986, who served under eight presidents. After a two page foreword by Lee Daniels, director of the coming movie also titled “The Butler,” we read how author Wil Haygood meets Eugene Allen and his wife, Helene, how he learns of Allen’s early life and being hired to work in the White House, and his viewing of Allen’s memorabilia in a basement room. Haygood’s interviews with Allen reveal some interesting moments during his thirty-four years of service but nothing that we would call salacious gossip. Discretion was and is the key to loyal and successful service in such hallowed halls. All of this is covered in the first forty-four pages including a short aside by Haygood on his own life as a writer. The next thirty-four pages deal with the filming of the movie in New Orleans and a discussion of how black people have been portrayed in movies. Haygood gives us background information on how difficult it was to get the movie produced and comments about actors such as Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey and Cuba Gooding, Jr., all of whom are in the movie. The final section of the book is brief and gives two pages each about five different presidents from Eisenhower to Reagan, chief executives whom Eugene Allen was privileged to know and serve. In summary, this book seems more of an inflated promotion pamphlet for the movie rather than a suitable coverage of Eugene Allen’s life and White House career. We see pictures of the five presidents mentioned but there isn’t a picture of Eugene Allen anywhere in the book; that’s a serious discrepancy in my view. If this subject interests you, I suggest seeing the movie and hope it tells a better story about Eugene and Helen Allen than this book does.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Will Mccullough

    Wil Haygood’s The Butler was one of the few books that I’ve read that I could not decide what I thought about it. It tells about a White House butler, Eugene Allen, and his life inside the White House under eight different presidents and over a 36 year period (I believe). However, I often found myself trying to figure out if this book was really a biography or not. It’s not to say that I disliked the book, because I did enjoy it, but I just found it hard to believe that it actually would be cons Wil Haygood’s The Butler was one of the few books that I’ve read that I could not decide what I thought about it. It tells about a White House butler, Eugene Allen, and his life inside the White House under eight different presidents and over a 36 year period (I believe). However, I often found myself trying to figure out if this book was really a biography or not. It’s not to say that I disliked the book, because I did enjoy it, but I just found it hard to believe that it actually would be considered a biography. Furthermore, this book does not speak entirely about Mr. Allen, like a biography should. It goes into more depth with civil rights, racial issues, and anything regarding that time period. Once again, this doesn’t mean that I disliked this book, but I was kind of expecting more of a biographical “feel” to the book than it was – considering I did find it under the “Biography” section of the website. One of the things I particularly liked about the book, however, was the section that contained the pictures. This may sound elementary, but I believe seeing the pictures really helped me understand the setting and the time period of the book. In my opinion, having some real life facts and figures to back it up, such as the pictures, really make a difference in my reading and excitement about the book. One thing I touched on earlier that I noted I was a little disappointed in, is also something that I really liked. I enjoyed learning more about racial issues and the civil rights movement – especially from a different prospective. I think something like this is what makes a book very enjoyable, even if it’s supposed to be a biography.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mary Speight

    I am so looking forward to seeing the movie, I thought the book, The Butler: A Witness to History would tell me the story of the the butler, George Allen. I hadn't heard of George Allen until the trailer for the movie and I watched the Oprah special on her network, as she and the key actors and director, Lee Daniels discussed the making of the movie. I was disappointed in the book. I thought it was the account of George Allen's story, or even about the articles, author, Wil Haygood wrote and was I am so looking forward to seeing the movie, I thought the book, The Butler: A Witness to History would tell me the story of the the butler, George Allen. I hadn't heard of George Allen until the trailer for the movie and I watched the Oprah special on her network, as she and the key actors and director, Lee Daniels discussed the making of the movie. I was disappointed in the book. I thought it was the account of George Allen's story, or even about the articles, author, Wil Haygood wrote and was printed in the Washington Post, instead what I read was the process in which it took to meet George and Helene Allen, and the making of the movie. I was disappointed and in the end I felt as if I just didn't get it. I do plan to see the movie and I did enjoy reading how the movie came to be, but, I also watched Oprah and they said the same thing, and the historical information about the civil rights, but, the book wasn't what I thought. Very disappointing.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Vicki

    Don't read this expecting it to be a blueprint for the upcoming movie. The first third of the book is a brief history of the author's relationship with Eugene Allen, the Butler in the title, which developed into a friendship after Mr. Haygood wrote a newspaper article about Mr. Allen's long White House service. The motivation for the article was the impending 2008 election which had a African-American man running for president. It's an interesting story with some historical information but it's Don't read this expecting it to be a blueprint for the upcoming movie. The first third of the book is a brief history of the author's relationship with Eugene Allen, the Butler in the title, which developed into a friendship after Mr. Haygood wrote a newspaper article about Mr. Allen's long White House service. The motivation for the article was the impending 2008 election which had a African-American man running for president. It's an interesting story with some historical information but it's a trifle. The middle portion of the book tells some specific stories about some of the presidents and the final third discusses the difficulties in getting the movie financed and made. A scant 112 pages the book is interesting but leaves you wanting more. This is one of those rare occasions where I think the movie will far surpass the book.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Cardyn Brooks

    This book is more of a teaser for readers who're looking for more specific details about Eugene Allen's childhood and young adulthood before he worked at the Whitehouse as well as during his 34 years there. The multiple pages of B&W photos are interesting. Almost half of the text in this book focuses on the arc of how Black people are portrayed in cinema from Birth of A Nation to present day, and Laura Ziskin's valiant efforts to finance The Butler while she was battling cancer. The Butler: A Witn This book is more of a teaser for readers who're looking for more specific details about Eugene Allen's childhood and young adulthood before he worked at the Whitehouse as well as during his 34 years there. The multiple pages of B&W photos are interesting. Almost half of the text in this book focuses on the arc of how Black people are portrayed in cinema from Birth of A Nation to present day, and Laura Ziskin's valiant efforts to finance The Butler while she was battling cancer. The Butler: A Witness to History provides an overview of the evolving cultural and political environment for Civil Rights and how entertainment reflects and influences a society. It's a quick read that makes me hope the Allens' son Charles will authorize Will Haygood to write a book about his parents lives.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    I suggest reading this book in conjunction with watching the movie of the same name ("The Butler"). The movie is BASED on the book (emphasis: based) as a number of liberties were taken with the story to make it more dramatic. However, both are very good, and any book or movie that is a witness to the civil rights activities of the 50's and beyond is a good one to read / watch. The book is not "heavy" history - it's a slight book - but is still a really interesting story.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Diana Huguley

    Great background information about the job description of a White House butler and the history of Hollywood's contribution to the race debate in America. This book however is not the narrative of the movie screen. It tells how the concept of the movie began and what was done to make it a reality. It has motivated me to see the movie with my family and have a discussion afterwards.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    More of a history of black cinema than a biography of the butler Eugene Allen, but a decent read nonetheless. The book piqued my interest in learning more of the black experience in America.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bella

    I am not sure what happened, it was going so well and then it just sort of disintegrated. I was hoping for something more in depth than the film but yeah, it wasn't. I think I didn't read the synopsis closely enough or something.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Outstanding! If you've read his biography at the end of this book, you know that author, Wil Haygood is a prizewinning writer for the Washington Post. He has won numerous awards for his writing, and after reading this book, I can see why! Side story: Wil Haygood's idea and search to find this story reminded me of tidbits that I have picked up from John Feinstein over the years. For those of you that don't know, John Feinstein has a wonderful series of books for tweens / teens (boys & girls, alike) Outstanding! If you've read his biography at the end of this book, you know that author, Wil Haygood is a prizewinning writer for the Washington Post. He has won numerous awards for his writing, and after reading this book, I can see why! Side story: Wil Haygood's idea and search to find this story reminded me of tidbits that I have picked up from John Feinstein over the years. For those of you that don't know, John Feinstein has a wonderful series of books for tweens / teens (boys & girls, alike) -- the main characters are Stevie Thomas & Susan Carol Anderson, who at the start of the series won a national writing contest for kids who wanted to get into sports WRITING! Anyways, each story is set at a major sporting event -- the Final Four, US Open, Superbowl, Army Navy Game, etc. At each venue, the characters have to "find their story". Anybody can write about the best or most popular player, but it takes a good journalist to find that unique view or story. Back to the present: Wil Haygood is that journalist. Picture Barack Obama as THE hot player, the one everyone wants to write about! Politics aside, he IS the story -- first black president ... Haygood has done some thinking. He has figured out a view that most others won't have thought of -- hearing from a black person who worked in the white house, hopefully during the time of the Jim Crow laws / segregation, to get their thoughts and feelings for what it's like for him or her to see a black person being elected to the highest office. Moving on to the story: Eugene Allen's history is an interesting one. Wil Haygood was lucky to see the "museum" in Mr. Allen's basement -- something I would have loved to have seen! Mr. Allen's story is best described by The Independent of London (p.42). "... a discreet stage hand who for three decades helped keep the show running in the most important political theatre of all." A fabulously unique story.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mark Hiser

    I really wanted to like this book, especially since Haygood is from my city and began his book tour at the university where I teach. I did not dislike the book, but it did not satisfy me. I thought so much more could have been written. The first part of the book briefly tells the story of "The Butler," but I wanted to know so much more about Mr. Allen and his experience working in the White House. The film, which is loosely based on Allen's life, used the civil rights movement and The healing of I really wanted to like this book, especially since Haygood is from my city and began his book tour at the university where I teach. I did not dislike the book, but it did not satisfy me. I thought so much more could have been written. The first part of the book briefly tells the story of "The Butler," but I wanted to know so much more about Mr. Allen and his experience working in the White House. The film, which is loosely based on Allen's life, used the civil rights movement and The healing of a father-son relationship as its core, so I hoped this book would also look at the civil rights movement in more detail, but it did not. The second part of the book looked at blacks in cinema and told the story of bringing The Butler to the screen. While some of this was interesting, I felt more like the author was just filling pages to make a book. The third section of this short book looked briefly at the role five presidents played in the civil rights movement. Again, so much was left unsaid. After seeing the film ( which was worth seeing even though it was overly ambitious), I hoped for more from this book, but left the table hungry.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    Slim volume of analysis providing the background to the story behind the making of the film "Lee Daniels' The Butler A Witness to History." From the moment I first saw the trailer, I knew this was a movie I had to see...the sweeping historical viewpoint of one man from the vantage point of the White House. And, it is based on a true story. I attended the first author presentation of Wil Haygood's on this book last night at Politics & Prose in D.C. It was a packed house. I learned about the diffi Slim volume of analysis providing the background to the story behind the making of the film "Lee Daniels' The Butler A Witness to History." From the moment I first saw the trailer, I knew this was a movie I had to see...the sweeping historical viewpoint of one man from the vantage point of the White House. And, it is based on a true story. I attended the first author presentation of Wil Haygood's on this book last night at Politics & Prose in D.C. It was a packed house. I learned about the difficulties in making the movie and other behind the scenes stories. The movie is going to be released August 16th, 2013. I am hoping for a real blockbuster. This is a movie with a vision and I hope Americans will support the message, the writing & the effort in putting quality back in the entertainment industry.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Urs

    I first saw the movie before reading this book. In this book, I expected the author to expand on the events of the movie, but he did no such thing. The first half of the book had mostly glossed over events in the life of Eugene Allen and a little of the author's experience meeting Mr. Allen. The second half of the book focused mostly on a history of black film, which had no direct relevance to Mr. Allen's story. Towards the end of the book, there were highlights of an event, mostly civil rights r I first saw the movie before reading this book. In this book, I expected the author to expand on the events of the movie, but he did no such thing. The first half of the book had mostly glossed over events in the life of Eugene Allen and a little of the author's experience meeting Mr. Allen. The second half of the book focused mostly on a history of black film, which had no direct relevance to Mr. Allen's story. Towards the end of the book, there were highlights of an event, mostly civil rights related, for each president under which Allen served. Even those were glossed over, though, too. I was really disappointed with this book. I bought this book for my reading partner as a Christmas gift, and bought one for myself when she asked me to read it with her. What a waste that was. This is one of those rare occasions where I have to say skip the book, and go watch the movie.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mom2nine

    Book was a let down. It tells very little of Eugene Allen's very unique experience and seems more of Haygood's opinion of race in our society. It does not make me a bigot to not want to watch a film about Selma or slavery, nor do I know that it is helping this generation. If anything it may numb us to the issues of today. When a 21 yr. old black man, who owns his own home, supports himself, is going to college and is in the Air Nat'l Guard asks what he has to do to prove himself, my heart breaks Book was a let down. It tells very little of Eugene Allen's very unique experience and seems more of Haygood's opinion of race in our society. It does not make me a bigot to not want to watch a film about Selma or slavery, nor do I know that it is helping this generation. If anything it may numb us to the issues of today. When a 21 yr. old black man, who owns his own home, supports himself, is going to college and is in the Air Nat'l Guard asks what he has to do to prove himself, my heart breaks. When a 25 yr. old black lady, an educated professional, tells of a phone job and the other person asks "little negro girl, can you do this?" I'm still shocked. These are things white people will never encounter: being judged solely by the color of one's skin. This book is in the past, very choppy and scattered and adds very little to history.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Literary Jewels

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The Butler: A Witness To History by Wil Hayword with a foreword by Lee Daniels is the companion book to the major motion picture. This book deals with the Civil Rights Movement and the story of Eugene Allen, a White House butler who served eight presidents over the course of thirty-four years. If you saw the movie and enjoyed this book is a nice addition as it does include pictures and the small book serves as a coffee table conversation piece. I admit I thought it was going to be more or some n The Butler: A Witness To History by Wil Hayword with a foreword by Lee Daniels is the companion book to the major motion picture. This book deals with the Civil Rights Movement and the story of Eugene Allen, a White House butler who served eight presidents over the course of thirty-four years. If you saw the movie and enjoyed this book is a nice addition as it does include pictures and the small book serves as a coffee table conversation piece. I admit I thought it was going to be more or some new information but overall a quick read and reference book for the movie. I rate it 3 and a half stars. Reviewed by Kisha Green for Literary Jewels Format: Paperback

  30. 4 out of 5

    Corelle

    I liked reading the story of Eugene Allen and learning that the film was based loosely on his life. Usually movies are a dramatization of a person's life and how they made a difference of impact on society at large. The caveat was that his actual story was too short. The rest of the book talks about the making of the movie which I understand. I would have liked Haygood to explore more about Allen's life (i.e. any examples of racial prejudice he faced in the White House, on his way to being head I liked reading the story of Eugene Allen and learning that the film was based loosely on his life. Usually movies are a dramatization of a person's life and how they made a difference of impact on society at large. The caveat was that his actual story was too short. The rest of the book talks about the making of the movie which I understand. I would have liked Haygood to explore more about Allen's life (i.e. any examples of racial prejudice he faced in the White House, on his way to being head butler, etc.) All in good, it's a good short read that everyone should consider reading.

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