Cover Image: The Black Cabinet

The Black Cabinet

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Member Reviews

Watts has written an extensive history of the Black Cabinet. While much has been written about the Black Cabinet and its role during the New Deal, Watts dispels many myths and describes the Black Cabinet not as a collection of individuals but as a long-term efforts over the course of decades to advance Black interests. This book is well-written and filled with a in-depth look at behind-the-scenes events that may not make it into the narrative of American history. I recommend that anyone who wants to understand American politics during the time of the New Deal read this book.
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Although not American I have always had an interest in its culture, politics and history and in recent years I have witnessed an uncovering of past events leading to a reassessment of previously accepted beliefs and  interpretations. Jill Watt's has here produced a powerful and moving examination of a deeply significant but hidden contribution to the struggle of African American's to achieve social justice and equality. This is at times a complex story but Watt's masterly work tells how a group of African Americans known as The Black Cabinet or Black Brain Trust would form an unofficial group serving as public policy advisers during FDR's New Deal Administration. 

This is a story of courage, determination and sheer willpower as The Black Cabinet would face an administration that was at best apathetic and at worst hostile to the plight of the African American community. This was a time when Roosevelt was fearful of the power of the Southern segregationist Democratic Party and that they would derail his New Deal. 

This is a shocking story and although I was aware of the existence of Jim Crow laws below the Mason Dixon Line I was unaware that as late as the 1940's federal buildings in Washington DC were rigidly segregated including offices, toilets and drinking fountains. Here we learn of how through The Black Cabinet's  influence African Americans would switch from voting Republican to Democrat and how they pioneered federal anti-discrimination guidelines ensuring that  African Americans would benefit from the New Deal. Comprehensive biographies of the main participants are found here together with an appreciation of their lasting legacy for they laid the groundwork for the success of the post war civil rights movement. To understand the present you need to understand the past and I therefore recommend this book to all those interested in American politics and history.
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