Review

The Senator and the Socialite: The True Story of America's First Black Dynasty

by Lawrence Otis Graham



THE SENATOR AND THE SOCIALITE proves that fact is indeed more
fascinating than fiction. Fiction tends to lump blacks in the time
period of the mid- to late-1800s, assuming the roles of slaves and
the downtrodden. Fact shows us that there were families that
thrived in roles other than those we commonly consider.

Blanche Bruce, the senator, was a slave for 23 years. While it
might have been easy to allow a less than desirable beginning to
hold him back, Blanche was made of sterner stuff. The son of a
slave and a white master, he rose from slavery to become a
landowner of an 800-acre plantation and a variety of rental
properties. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1874. He gained
appointments under no less than four presidents and was the first
black man to have his name printed on U.S. currency. He also
married a beautiful black woman from a prominent family.

Josephine Willson, the socialite from Philadelphia and daughter of
a doctor, was a fitting companion for an ambitious man. She married
the senator in 1878. Their society wedding in the Episcopal Church
and four-month European honeymoon were only a sign of the good
things yet to come. Josephine possessed a light complexion, a
blessing when it came to being accepted by white Republicans and
society and a curse when it came to the presidency of the National
Council of Colored Women.

The senator and the socialite would become a powerful duo
complementing each other perfectly and rising to great heights.
This is the story of their humble beginnings and great
accomplishments. The book is also peppered with an impressive
number of names from America's past and interesting facts that
shaped the history of our country.

This book is a fascinating history of a family who lived
extraordinary lives very different from those of other black
families during the same time period. It's an inspiring story of a
family who used education, connections and confidence to rise
to a level of stature not normally achieved by black members of
society at that time. They didn't wait for opportunity to knock on
their door; they made their own opportunities.

THE SENATOR AND THE SOCIALITE, while obviously a biographical work,
contains every element one would want in a good work of fiction.
There's fame and fortune, love and scandal. I highly recommend this
book as both a good read and an inspirational story.

Reviewed by Amie Taylor on January 23, 2011

The Senator and the Socialite: The True Story of America's First Black Dynasty
by Lawrence Otis Graham

  • Publication Date: July 1, 2007
  • Genres: Biography, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial
  • ISBN-10: 0060985135
  • ISBN-13: 9780060985134