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“A Literary Salon: A Conversation with Wil Haygood, author of The Butler


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The Center for Black Literature, in Collaboration with 37INK/Atria Books and Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corp., Presents “A Literary Salon: A Conversation with Wil Haygood, author of and Pamela Newkirk”



Clarence V. Reynolds, 718-804-8881



Maeshay k. Lewis, 718-804-8882



Wil Haygood, author of The Butler: A Witness to History, and NYU professor Pamela Newkirk will be in conversation to discuss Haywood’s recently published book.


National: As a Bookend Event of the 2013 Brooklyn Book Festival, The Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College will present award-winning journalist Wil Haygood and New York University professor Pamela Newkirk in conversation to discuss Haywood’s recent book, The Butler: A Witness to History, about Eugene Allen, who served eight presidents as the White House’s head butler from 1952 to 1986. Haygood’s latest is a companion book to the major motion picture. The event will take place on Saturday, September 21, 2013, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Skylight Gallery at Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corp., located at 1368 Fulton St. (between New York and Brooklyn Aves.) Brooklyn, NY 11216. The donation for the event is $10 / $30 with book purchase. A book-signing will follow the program and light refreshments will be served.


Space is limited, to reserve a seat and get advance tickets, visit the CBL website at www.centgerforblackliterature.org and click on Calendar of Events, or go to https://thebutlerbookreading.eventbrite.com/, or call the Center for Black Literature at 718-804-8883.


In 2008, author and journalist Wil Haygood published an enlightening article in the Washington Post on Eugene Allen, who served presidents from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan as the White House’s head butler from 1952 to 1986. Haygood’s article “A Butler Well Served By this Election” is the basis of his new book as well as the idea for the blockbuster film Lee Daniels’ The Butler.


“We are pleased to have this engaging author share his experiences of meeting Allen. Although Eugene Allen did not make headlines during his life, he had a close relationship with presidents during significant historical moments in America. His story is a testament to the legacy of those Black men and women who endured and witnessed prejudice and racism during the Civil Rights era and beyond. It is important for all of us to be aware of his story,” says Dr. Brenda Greene, executive director of the Center for Black Literature.


According to the publisher, The Butler: A Witness to History is a mesmerizing inquiry into the life of Eugene Allen, the butler who ignited a nation’s sympathy and inspired a major motion picture directed by Oscar nominee Lee Daniels. The Butler stars Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker and is considered both a critical and box office success. Included in the book is an introduction by Daniels and an essay by Haygood in the vein of James Baldwin’s jewel The Devil Finds Work that explores the history of blacks in Hollywood as well as more than 45 pictures of the butler, Eugene Allen, and his family, the presidents he served, and the remarkable cast.


The life of Eugene Allen is truly a compelling one. In 1952, Allen started work as a butler in the White House. And as Haygood tells in his 2008 article about Allen: “He saw eight presidential administrations come and go … He was there while America’s racial history was being remade: Brown v. Board of Education, the Little Rock school crisis, the 1963 March on Washington, the cities burning, the civil rights bills, the assassinations.” And all the while, Allen, who never missed a day of work, kept his faith.


About the Participants


Wil Haygood

In 1988, legendary Vietnam War correspondent and novelist Ward Just described Wil Haygood as “perhaps America’s best young reporter.” In the ensuing years, Haygood’s career has been marked by prize-winning journalism and books.


His biographies of Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Sammy Davis Jr., and Sugar Ray Robinson have been acclaimed. His family memoir, The Haygoods of Columbus, was hailed as a “work of literature.”  Haygood distinguished himself as a journalist at the Boston Globe, where he worked for 17 years—as national writer and foreign correspondent—and now at the Washington Post, where he has covered the national scene since 2002. His award-winning 2008 Washington Post front-page story about longtime White House butler Eugene Allen—reprinted in newspapers all around the world—is the basis for the major motion picture The Butler. Haygood has been an Alicia Patterson Fellow, Guggenheim Fellow, and Pulitzer Prize finalist.  In 2013, he received the Ella Baker Award—named in honor of the civil rights pioneer—from the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Literary Foundation. Haygood resides in Washington, D.C.


Pamela Newkirk is professor in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications and director of the undergraduate studies program at New York University. She is the author of Within the Veil: Black Journalists, White Media (2000), which was awarded the National Press Club Award for Media Criticism and editor of A Love No Less: More Than Two Centuries of African American Love Letters (2003). Her most recent book is Letters from Black America: Intimate Portraits of the African American Experience (2009), a collection of letters from a wide variety of African-Americans. The School Library Journal commends this volume as a superb collection of more than 200 letters ranges widely in time that add immeasurably to the hopes, fears, struggles, tragedies, and triumphs of African- Americans.


About the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, CUNY This year marks a milestone for the Center for Black Literature as it celebrates its tenth anniversary. Founded in 2003, and spearheaded by Dr. Brenda M. Greene, the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, CUNY, was established to expand, broaden, and enrich the general public’s knowledge and aesthetic appreciation of the value of Black literature; to continue the tradition and legacy of the National Black Writers Conference; to serve as a voice, mecca, and resource for Black writers; and to study the literature of people from the African Diaspora. It is the only Center devoted to this in the country.


For more information about The Center for Black Literature, please call 718-804-8883, or visit the CBL’s website at www.centerforblackliterature.org<http://www.centerforblackliterature.org/>.



Celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of the Center for Black Literature

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