On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama was sworn in as the first Black President of the United States of America. Upon waving farewell to George Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama moved their family into the White House. For many Americans, the history of African Americans in the White House began in 2009. Not true.
Dr. Clarence Lusane, Political Science professor at American University, has written a book entitled, The Black History of the White House, which historically honors the contribution of African Americans as free and enslaved people within the most celebrated house in the United States of America. Dr. Lusane, aside from his formal scholarship, is no stranger to the Black community. Either directly or indirectly, Dr. Lusane has worked with many of the Member Organizations of the Black Leadership Forum, Inc, among them the TransAfrica Forum and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
Prior to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW in Washington, D.C. being the address of the White House, the first President's House was located in New York and Philadelphia, respectively. For years, archeological evidence and the relentless efforts by progressive African Americans in Philadelphia have pointed toward a full public recognition that, despite historic omissions and falsehoods in the teaching of American history in classrooms, enslaved Black people were forcibly worked for free within the home of a sitting president. Many.
Two in particular, an African American lady named Oney Judd and a man named Hercules are featured in the book. According to Dr. Lusane, President George Washington words and deeds did not match on the subject of slavery. While President Washington spoke of his opposition to the institution of slavery, he enslaved Ms. Oney Judd and other African Americans. One evening, Ms. Oney simply walked out of the rear door of the President's House while George Washington and his wife Martha ate dinner. Following a search, Ms. Judd was found and was offered her freedom, if she would return to bondage. She simply replied, "I am already free", and did not return.
In another case, an enslaved African American man by the name of Hercules emancipated himself by escaping the bondage of George Washington on a trip from Philadelphia to the Mount Vernon, Virginia private plantation of George Washington.
Both cases are featured in The Black History in the White House that should be required reading in Sunday schools and public school systems. Until American education exposes students to all history—pleasant and unpleasant—our nation will not be able to fully address the issue of race.
Gary L. Flowers, Executive Director and CEO of the Black Leadership Forum, Inc.