Untold White House African American History Revealed
Traditionally, Black History Month sheds light on the accomplishments of African-American celebrities and high-profile historical figures. However, many believe that this celebration should encompass the stories of the African-Americans whose narratives have gone untold throughout history.
American University professor Clarence Lusane, author of The Black History of the White House, reveals the untold history and politics of the White House through the prism of the experiences of African Americans.
The Black History of the White House (City Lights Publishers, January 2011) catalogues a comprehensive history of the White House, highlighting the role it has played in advancing, hindering, or simply ignoring equal rights efforts. The book includes stories of those who served as slaves in presidential households, were forced to work on the construction of the White House, and Secret Service agents affected by racist peers. The book also incorporates accounts of African American performers and visitors to the White House.
“I unearthed these great narratives, and I felt driven to share them,” said Lusane. “Oney Judge was a young, black woman enslaved to George Washington who escaped. Her desire for freedom was so great that she fled, knowing that Washington could and eventually would send people to find her. You go from that experience to the Obamas in the White House as the first family. Most people in this country don’t have a sense of that journey, because so many of those voices have been erased from history. “
Lusane recently published an op-ed about the opening of the Presidential House exhibit in Philadelphia. The exhibit features a section about the slaves who were in service to President George Washington at his house in Philadelphia. Lusane discusses the influences of this exhibit.
“The President House exhibit’s most important lesson is not about the country’s first President, but about the voiceless people whose stories have gone untold for centuries,” said Lusane in his op-ed.
Lusane suggests the White House has always been a prism through which to view the social struggles and progress of black Americans.
Lusane is also the author of other works, including: Pipe Dream Blues: Racism and the War on Drugs, one of the first books to argue that the history of drug wars masked the attacks on Black, Latino, and Asian communities; and Hitler’s Black Victims: The Historic Experiences of Afro-Germans, Africans, Afro-Europeans, and African Americans During the Nazi Era, which focuses on the untold history of people of African descent under Nazism.
Lusane began his commitment to fighting injustice after his mother and sister were shot during a race riot in Detroit in July 1967, and continued from there with community involvement, travel, and work with policy-makers, activists, artists, and others on the issues of global human rights and racial justice.