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Bill Clinton and Black America [Hardcover]

Dewayne Wickham
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 15 2002
While white Americans were evenly divided about Bill Clinton’s impeachment ninety percent of African-Americans opposed it. Now from a founding member of the National Association of Black Journalists comes a groundbreaking new book that explores the deep and unique connection between the former president and the black community–in the words of journalists, celebrities, academics, and other thoughtful Americans.

Going well beyond mere TV punditry, luminaries such as Dr. Mary Frances Berry, Bill Gray, Kweisi Mfume, and Alice Randall, as well as ordinary citizens, offer insight into why African-Americans for the first time saw themselves in the soul of a president–Whether it was the large African-American presence in his administration, his perceived legal persecutions, his personal style, or his lasting yet tumultuous marriage–and why that kinship has sweeping cultural implications. Bill Clinton’s actions, associations, and essence are all analyzed in light of their effect on and appeal to this crucial constituency.

Much-awaited and long overdue, Bill Clinton and Black America features fascinating, provocative interpretations of the special relationship between the black people and this extraordinary man who, when his presidency ended, moved his office from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue–White America’s most famous address–to Harlem’s 125th Street–the heart of Black America.

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Product Description

From Amazon

It's fitting that after he left the White House, Bill Clinton moved his office to 125th Street in Harlem--the most famous black district in the country--for African Americans have consistently been the most supportive segment of his constituency. Even during his impeachment and other difficult times, blacks stood with him; on better days, Clinton's approval rating among black Americans was often higher than that of Jesse Jackson. In Bill Clinton and Black America, USA Today reporter DeWayne Wickham conducts a series of interviews with African American politicians, pundits, journalists, activists, entertainers, and educators to explore Clinton's "special bond with blacks" as both governor and president. As these interviews make clear, their love and support goes well beyond mere allegiance to the Democratic Party; in many ways the African American community sees Clinton as one of them. Several of those interviewed even refer to him as the "black president" because he was so receptive to their needs and because he worked to include them in the political process more than any other president.

Reasons cited here for Clinton's popularity among blacks include his poor Southern upbringing and underdog status, the fact that he appointed more blacks to his cabinet and other federal posts than any other president, and good timing (he came into office after three consecutive Republican administrations). But perhaps the biggest factor discussed is the genuine ease with which Clinton relates to black Americans. Blacks trust him to consider their perspective and do not view him as just another white politician who appears only during election years. This is not to say that Clinton always did their bidding; he often disappointed them. But they also shared common enemies and a common outlook that brought them together. He may not be their president any longer, but a majority of blacks still see him as a friend--and now, a neighbor. --Shawn Carkonen

From Publishers Weekly

The first black president: "single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone playing, McDonald's-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas" was how Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison described Bill Clinton. And, indeed, Clinton enjoyed his highest rating with blacks even when his popularity was at its lowest. This collection of short pieces and interviews with Clinton, edited by USA Today columnist Wickham (Woodholme: A Black Man's Story of Growing up Alone), gathers a wide variety of black professionals, politicians and intellectuals addressing the myriad issues on which African-Americans engaged with the president. Terry Edmonds (Clinton's director of speech writing) captures the heart of this relationship in his statement, "for Clinton, black America was never an afterthought." Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint was troubled by Clinton's attack on Sister Souljah "for being anti-white," but was still won over by the president's appointments of black judges, cabinet and subcabinet members, and by his attendance at black churches and singing of hymns. The collection is at its best when it mixes personal anecdotes (law professor Mary Frances Berry telling Clinton jokes during a Black History Month dinner) with substantive analysis, as when William H. Gray III of the United Negro College Fund reports on helping Clinton revise his disastrous Haitian refugees policy. While a great deal of the material here states the obvious (actor/producer Tim Reid's statement that "he's given the black people something that no one has given them at this point: hope"), what comes through again and again is the manner in which his black constituency felt well represented by Clinton. (Feb.)Forecast: Clinton's current Harlem base of operations is just one more gesture of solidarity with the African-American community. But with the former president's political role in flux, this book's main audience will be those wanting a walk through the 1990s' White House domestic policy making as well as the African-Americans and many others with cases of Clinton nostalgia.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars My Opinion Jan. 26 2004
The first time I knew I'd made a wise choice by voting for Bill Clinton was while viewing news footage taken of him the first few days he took office for his first term. He was walking with some aides around the White House and two elderly African American women waved and smiled to him. He walked over to them and began talking. Just then an aide stepped between Clinton and the two women with his back to the two elderly women. Clinton became furious and part of what he said to the aide had to be bleeped out to be shown on television. The footage was meant to show the temper of a new president. What I saw was a president rightfully ticked at a staff member for disrespecting two elderly African Americans. I remember thinking "d**n, Clinton gets it". To better understand why black america loves Clinton (besides hiring more blacks in his cabinet than any other president, balancing the budget and starting and supporting job and education programs), I would recommend that you read "Invisible Man". With Clinton, for a change, we weren't invisible, we mattered and weren't taken for granted. He didn't say dumb things like "It is a terrible thing to lose one's mind" at a United Negro College Fund function or assume that welfare benefit increases was an important issue to African Americans (we work!). He had a respect for the history and the people that had never been seen before or perhaps since ( I once saw him unexpectedly be asked to recite the Negro National Anthem. He recited the first two verses without struggle and then sang the THIRD!). For the first time, I had a feeling of safety. Read more ›
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By A Customer
Clinton had a lot of potential. He is a brilliant man, a Rhodes scholar. He has a charming personality and an incredible memory. However, Clinton betrayed American in many important ways. He loosened restrictions on nuclear missile guidance systems, satellite technology and anti-satellite technology such that China and Russia now have the ability to destroy the defense systems of the USA. Clinton did this in exchange for campaign contributions from the Chinese as well as from companies such as Lorad and Hughes. For more info on this topic one can read Betrayal by Bill Gertz of the Washington Post. During Clinton's tenure, American morality has reached new lows. He removed restrictions against the pornography industry such that porn is readily delivered into American homes with cable and satellite TV. He pardoned cocaine dealers in exchange for payoffs. He pardoned the FALN Peurto Rican terrorists who killed people with bombs. He did not respond to the earlier bombing of the WTC by Bin Laden. He did respond to the bombing of the USS Cole. He did not pursue the connections of Timothy Mcveigh to Bin Laden in the Phillipines. He denied the US Army Rangers and Delta Force tank support and gunship support in Mogadishu such that 18 Americans were killed. Then he ran out of Mogadishu when a marine was dragged thru the streets. This sent the wrong message to terrorists. The implication was that Clinton was not willing to commit significant military strength and that he would run if any American casualties occured or there was the potential bad publicity for him. He lowered the dignity of the office of the American Presidency by having a sexual affair with a Monica Lewinsky while he was being investigated for sexual abuse of Paula Jones, Gennefer Flowers and Katherine Wylie. Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars "A Race Man In the White House Feb. 17 2002
Before reading interviews of various folk who comment on te love affair between former President Bill Clinton and black America, I suggest first reading the two chapters near the end of the book, "A Race Man in the White House" and "A Drum Major for Change." In these two chapters, Wickham puts his finger on a simple but important fact about Clinton when he writes that rather then distance himself from the black community he made an effort to bring the races together and "he tried harder than any other president to make race less of a factor in our lives.
Moreover, Wickham writes: "What impresses me about Bill Clinton is that he does not view black skin as a 'disagreeable mirror.' More to the point, he has shown a greater willingness than any other president to look African Amercans in the eye not with condescension, as Lew Payne points out, but with an uncommon sense of fairness."
In his 310-page book, Wickham makes it clear that Clinton did not use magic to woe black America. He appointed an unprecedented number of African Americans to top jobs in his administration and he tackled America's racial problems head on. And while the Republicans attacked affirmative action, Clinton promoted a "One America" initiative to help build a bridge of understanding between whites and blacks.
The book is loaded with interviews with a cross-section of black America. Over and over again, the same theme is sounded: Bill Clinton was well liked because he made the connection that other presidents ignored. Clinton made the connection that past president did not make because of racism or ignorance.
Wickham has weaved together a number of interesting interviews of African Americans of different walks of life in a way that make this book easy reading. I recommend this book to all students of history and those who want racial progress.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking Book
While I began this book believing that African Americans are too inclined to support any white leader who isn't blatantly racist, I ended by at least acknowledging that President... Read more
Published on March 5 2002 by "newyorkwriter"
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking Book
While I began this book believing that African Americans are too inclined to support any white leader who isn't blatantly racist, I ended by at least acknowledging that President... Read more
Published on March 5 2002 by "newyorkwriter"
5.0 out of 5 stars Clinton: Up Close and Personal
While there may be countless books written about the lives of presidents from an historical perspective, "Bill Clinton and Black America" is a fresh look at the life of a... Read more
Published on Feb. 20 2002 by Bernadette Adams
1.0 out of 5 stars Can we please get over Bill Clinton?
As a Black man myself, I was constantly amazed that so many Blacks adored Bill Clinton. I'll give DeWayne Wickham credit for trying to turn out an intelligent text looking at the... Read more
Published on Feb. 16 2002 by "jamaal_michaels"
5.0 out of 5 stars In Time He Will Be Recognized As A Great Leader of People
In reading Mr. Wickham's book, I felt he captured the true strength of William Jefferson Clinton ... An Understanding of Race Relations in America. Read more
Published on Feb. 16 2002 by Ackneil M. Muldrow II
4.0 out of 5 stars Bill Clinton and Black America
I never considered that my connection to Bill Clinton was an emotion shared by so many across my race. Read more
Published on Feb. 15 2002
1.0 out of 5 stars When will they learn?
The things that Dwayne points out as things in common with Clinton are things to be avoided. That Clinton was elected twice was not due to black support, it was due to Ross Perot. Read more
Published on Jan. 30 2002 by G. Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read on an important phenomenon
Everybody will remember that in the 1990s, people of all races deemed Bill Clinton "the first Black president. Read more
Published on Jan. 15 2002
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