A few weeks ago, I went to the theater to see “Lee Daniel’s The Butler.”
This is a true story based on the life of long-time African American White House butler Eugene Allen, who served as a butler from the Eisenhower administrator through the Reagan administration. Allen served seven First Families in the White House during his career. He started out earning next to nothing and had the courage to stand up and demand that the African American butlers be paid more, equal to that of the white butlers.
Allan grew up on a cotton farm in the South. His father was brutally killed by the plantation owner’s son and his mother was raped as well. He had a tough upbringing.
When he eventually got married himself and had two sons of his own, he vowed to make sure they were brought up in a respectable way, get a decent education and go on to college.
One of his sons decided to enlist in the Army and served during the Vietnam War. Sadly, he was killed in action.
Allen’s other son was quite vocal and prominent during the Civil Rights Movement. He traveled throughout the South, taking part in sit-ins at restaurants. He eventually joined the Black Panther movement, something his father was against. It wasn’t until later in his adult life that Allen and his son were able to form a stronger father-son relationship. Allen finally realized that his son was passionate about changing the landscape of our country, in which everyone should be treated equal.
That was the whole basis of the movie. Allen pushed for equal pay in the White House, while his son pushed for equal rights, being allowed to sit at the lunch counter, being allowed to sit in the front of the bus, being allowed to drink from the same drinking fountain and being allowed to attend high school with white children.
Watching some of the graphic and violent scenes throughout the movie, depicting what took place in the South during the Civil Rights Movement was hard to see. I obviously didn’t grow up in that era, but I’ve read plenty of books and have seen many movies and news shows recounting the horrific violence African Americans went through during that time. Law enforcement had their dogs attack blacks people. They hosed them down with high-pressure fire hoses. They were beaten on the streets by law enforcement, spat on and so much more.
It’s hard to even imagine that today! I mean the Civil Rights Movement took place about 50 years ago. That’s not that long in the grand scheme of things. To think black people were treated like this in the land of the free is unjust.
Politics aside, some of the same feelings today are protruded onto those who are different from others, on homosexuals or those from the Middle East. While the violent actions aren’t evident, it’s the hatred that is still out there, creating unease and unrest.
Personally, it’s hard for me to see how one group of people can justify their hateful actions onto other group of human beings, but it’s happened and unfortunately it will probably continue to happen.
At the end of “The Butler,” Eugene Allen’s character has since retired from working in the White House, enjoying life at home with his wife. Both are aging in their years. What was emotional (me for) was when the Allens lived long enough to be able to not only vote for this country’s first African American president, but also witness his inauguration. For a boy growing up on a plantation in the South to working in the nation’s biggest house as a butler to the man running the country to finally seeing a black man take that office. It got to me…
This movie was not made to be a political statement. It was not made to rehash the horrific events of the 1950s and ’60s in the South. It wasn’t made to promote the government. It was made to reflect on our nation’s history and show that you can make a difference in life.