The Black Cabinet: The Untold Story of African Americans and Politics During the Age of Roosevelt

Grove. May 2020. 560p. ISBN 9780802129109. $30. HIST
In this thoroughly researched history, Watts (Hattie McDaniel) traces the birth of the relationship between the Democratic Party and Black America through the influence of African Americans on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal policies. Thanks to the tireless work of Mary McLeod Bethune, a friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, along with an informal group of Black federal employees in Washington, DC, the concerns of Black citizens were added to Roosevelt’s agenda. Consisting of lawyers, educators, teachers, and politicians, the team informally advised the president on social issues in the midst of the Great Depression. In the author’s telling, this led to the start of a political change that would help define the civil rights movement and American politics for the 20th century. This sweeping history looks at how a core group took on the racist machinations of post-Reconstruction government to give Black communities a chance to influence one of the most powerful men in the world. Though they never achieved official recognition, they still helped change the course of history.
VERDICT A dramatic piece of nonfiction that recovers the history of a generation of leaders that helped create the environment for the civil rights battles in decades that followed Roosevelt’s death.
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