The Tallahassee O Would Like To Thank All The Brave Men and Women Involved In The Civil Rights Movement.
The Plot From Wikipedia
In 2009, an elderly Cecil Gaines recounts his life story, while waiting in the White House. Gaines was raised on a cotton plantation in the 1920s Macon, Georgia, by his sharecropping parents. One day, the farm’s owner, Thomas Westfall, rapes Cecil’s mother, Hattie Pearl. Cecil’s father confronts Westfall, and is shot dead. Cecil is taken in by Annabeth Westfall, the estate’s caretaker, who says, “he’s going to be a ‘House Nigger’ now” and trains Cecil as a house servant.
In his teens, he leaves the plantation and his mother, who has been mute since the incident. One night, Cecil breaks into a hotel pastry shop and is, unexpectedly, hired. He learns advanced skills from the master servant, Maynard, who, after several years, recommends Cecil for a position in a Washington D.C. hotel. While working at the D.C. hotel, Cecil meets and marries Gloria, and the couple have two children: Louis and Charlie. In 1957, Cecil is hired by the White House during Dwight D. Eisenhower‘s administration. White House maître d’ Freddie Fallows shows Cecil around, introducing him to head butler Carter Wilson and co-worker James Holloway. At the White House, Cecil witnesses Eisenhower’s reluctance to use troops to enforce school desegregation in the South, then the President’s resolve to uphold the law by racially integrating a high school in Little Rock.
The Gaines family celebrates Cecil’s new occupation with their closest friends and neighbors, Howard and Gina. Louis, the eldest son, becomes a first generation university student at Fisk University in Tennessee, although Cecil feels that the South is too volatile; he wanted Louis to enroll at Howard University instead. Louis joins a student program led by James Lawson, to peacefully engage in a sit-in at a segregated diner; he is arrested. Furious, Cecil confronts Louis for disobeying him. Gloria, suffering from her husband’s long working hours, descends into alcoholism and has an affair with the Gaineses’ neighbor, Howard.
In 1961, after John F. Kennedy‘s election, Louis and a dozen others are attacked by the Ku Klux Klan while traveling on a bus in Alabama. Kennedy delivers a national address proposing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Several months after the speech, Kennedy is assassinated. His successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, enacts the transformative legislation into law. As a goodwill gesture, Jackie Kennedy gives Cecil one of the former president’s neckties before she leaves the White House.
In the late 1960s, after civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s assassination, Louis visits and tells his family that he has joined the radical organization called the Black Panthers. Aware of Richard Nixon‘s plans to suppress the movement and upset at his son’s actions, Cecil orders Louis and his girlfriend, Carol, to leave his house. Louis is soon arrested and is bailed out by Carter Wilson.
The Gaineses’ other son, Charlie, confides to Louis that he plans to join the Army in the war in Vietnam, to which Louis announces that he won’t attend Charlie’s funeral if he is killed there. A few months later, the Gaines family hold a funeral for Charlie, which Louis does not attend; his father is furious. However, when the Black Panthers begin to use violence in response to racial confrontations, Louis leaves the organization and returns to college, earning his master’s degree in political science and eventually running for a seat in Congress.
Meanwhile, Cecil’s professional reputation has grown to the point that in the 1980s, he and his wife are invited by Ronald and Nancy Reagan as guests at a state dinner. Cecil sees that the invitation is just for show, as Reagan plans to veto Congressional sanctions against South Africa. Cecil announces his resignation to the President, but not before gaining Reagan’s support in his years-long effort to have the black White House staff receive the same rate of salary and career opportunities as their white counterparts.
Gloria, wanting Cecil to mend his estranged relationship with Louis, reveals to him that Louis told her that he loved and respected them both. Realizing his son’s actions are heroic rather than antagonistic, Cecil joins Louis in a protest against South African apartheid.
The film then advances to Barack Obama‘s 2008 presidential campaign, where an elderly Gloria dies shortly before Obama is elected as the nation’s first African-American president, a milestone which leaves Cecil and Louis in awe. The film ends with Cecil preparing to meet the inaugurated president in the White House.