Lee Daniels’ The Butler captures the fact-based story of Eugene West, a black butler who served eight presidential administrations with honor.
The film, penned by Game Change scribe Danny Strong, depicts several Democratic presidents as heroes in the fight for civil rights, particularly President John F. Kennedy.
Yet Strong conveniently left out a key detail of Kennedy’s race relations past that would put a dent in the deification on display. The following is from The Washington Post interview feature with West which inspired the film:
The issue of race bedeviled this White House, even amid good intentions. In February 1963, Kennedy invited 800 blacks to the White House to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Louis Martin, a Democratic operative who helped plan the function, had placed the names of entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. and his wife, May Britt, on the guest list. The White House scratched it off and Martin would put it back on. According to Martin, Kennedy was aghast when he saw the black and white couple stroll into the White House. His face reddened and he instructed photographers that no pictures of the interracial couple would be taken.