- The writers made liberal use of artistic license.
- "Lee Daniels' The Butler" is loosely based on the life of Eugene Allen, a man who had the grace and dignity to serve the leaders of eight presidential administrations. It is not a biopic or documentary.
- Mr. Gaines does not exist. It is not Mr. Allen's family.
- Mrs. Allen was not an alcoholic nor did they have two sons. http://entertainment.time.com/2013/08/16/what-the-butler-really-saw/
- It is a damned good movie.
If you want to know more about the life of Mr. Allen, this link will be useful: http://swampland.time.com/2013/08/14/eugene-allen-the-man-behind-the-butler/photo/eugene-allen-former-white-house-butler/. Or, you can ask my former church members at The Greater First Baptist Church where he worshiped. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/15/eugene-allen-the-butler-church-usher_n_3757615.html (As a personal aside, I was moved to see the magnificent stained glass windows of the sanctuary depicted in the movie. Warm memories of that church and its members.)
With that said, I urge you to enjoy the movie for this reason: the history lessons--particularly in light of the recent commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. So very much of our history has been forgotten, rewritten, and revised. We have become so comfortable with our current lifestyles and achievements that we ignore a past filled with lynchings, rapes, murder, land grabs, humiliations, fear, and more. Our children have not been exposed to the ugliness of racism and believe that it is over. A closer look at current events shows that while we have come so far from the days of Jim Crow, some things have not changed. Forces are still at work to limit our full success. Pay attention to how the first African American to occupy the highest office of the land is treated and pray for him daily. It is important that we not forget and make sure that our children and their children know the trials and travails that our people endured.
I'm also guilty of "forgetting." Though too young to understand the implications and the impact to come, I do remember seeing the confrontation between Pres. Eisenhower and Gov. Faubus, in Little Rock, AR, and Governor Wallace's refusal to allow Black students into the University of Alabama on the nightly news. I do remember the sit-ins and demonstrations (took part in a few), the marches, the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, the rise of the Black Panthers, the murders of civil rights leaders and activists, and more. But many of those memories had been buried deeply in the recesses of my mind. Seeing the historical footage brought them to the forefront. In many instances, I could remember clearly what I was doing or where I was. In moving to Tennessee, I learned of Fayette County's "Tent City," via a PBS documentary, which drove home the fact that hatred and resistance to equal rights was not relegated to the deep South alone.
While the secondary story line, the familial struggles of the Gaines' family, is also great...it is just that: a story line. Enjoy the movie and stellar performances by the star-studded cast. See the film for the history. Use it as a teachable moment for the young because:
“Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.” (African proverb)
Be Safe. Be Blessed.