Clarence Lusane Featured at White House to Honor Black History

Clarence Lusane, author of the new book, The Black History of the White House, keynoted an event at the White House to cap-off their celebration of Black History Month on Monday, February 28.

Lusane began his talk discussing the first lines from his book: “More than one in four U.S. presidents were involved in human trafficking and slavery. These presidents bought, sold, bred and enslaved black people for profit.”

Lusane’s Power Point presentation included selections from the book’s historical photographs and illustrations, and focused on many of the under-taught lessons and stories of U.S. history uncovered by his book.

Several generations of White House staffers heard Lusane recount stories of women and men who ran away from presidents who enslaved them, pro-slavery reasons why Southern colonies agreed to revolt against England, stories of the first free blacks to meet with presidents to press for an end to slavery, and President Lincoln’s failed programs to persuade free blacks to permanently emigrate en masse.

A one-page program on White House letterhead was distributed at the event, “Winning The Future: Celebrating Black History Month: The Black History of the White House.”

In addition to Lusane, the program included a slide presentation by White House Curator, William G. Allman, who has served at the White House since 1976. His presentation focused on an exhibit of images he curates in the White House for Black History Month.

Michael A. Blake, Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, introduced the speakers and made closing reflections.

Greg Ruggiero, Lusane’s editor at City Lights, was also in attendance. Ruggiero said, "White House staff was clearly moved by Lusane’s presentation."

The audience expressed an interest in learning ways to embrace the history, be proud of it, and enable it to be taught in classrooms around the country.

During the closing, Michael A. Blake welled up while thanking Clarence, then presented him with a gift from the president — a copy of a Black History Month 2011 Proclamation that President Obama had signed for him.

Blake also announced that the First Lady requested that Clarence sign and inscribe a copy for her, which Lusane did on the spot at the book signing table.

Blake closed the event by reminding the audience of Lusane’s message of the journey so far. "'Let us not take for granted this auspicious moment," said Blake, "this is our time to make a difference."

Clarence Lusane will return to Busboys and Poets on Sunday, May 1, from 5 to 7 pm for ACTOR (A Continuing Talk On Race). In January Lusane presented The Black History of the White House to an absorbed, standing-room-only Busboys and Poets audience at an event sponsored by Teaching for Change, the Institute for Policy Studies, and TransAfrica Forum.

For excerpts, links to interviews, public speaking schedule, and updates, go to the City Lights Web site.

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