The Butler (2013) Script

The only thing I ever knew was cotton.

It was hard work.

Now, you know cotton is ready when the bud splits, and the boll is star-shaped, like a big ol' star in the sky.

Or like your big ol' head.

Hold on, is that some cotton?

Is that cotton?

But I didn't mind,

'cause I got to spend all day working with my daddy.

Hurry, take this picture. Take a picture of y'all.

Why don't everybody smile?


Hattie, come on, I need your help in the shed.

Come on.

Pa... where he taking Ma? Get back to work.

Cecil, come back here, boy.


Come here.

Look at me, boy.

Don't you lose your temper with that man.

This his world. We just living in it.

You hear me?

Now, get on back to work.

Pa, what you gonna do?



Oh, my Lord.

Who you looking at?! Huh?

Who wants to go next?! You get back to work.

Hey, you. Get some of the hands to help dig a hole for his pa.

Hurry up!

Stop crying.

I'm gonna have you in the house now.

I'm gonna teach you how to be a house nigger.

He's coming. Yes'm.

And quiet when you're serving.

I don't even want to hear you breathe.

Yes, ma'am.

The room should feel empty when you're in it.

It was much nicer working in the house than in the field.

Crazy nigger, from the left.

Give me more.


When I got older, I knew I had to go before he killed me, too.

Part of me was scared to leave.

It was the only world I ever knew.

Ma, I took Pa's watch.


Ma, I'm leaving.

My mama never spoke much after that.

I knew she'd miss me, but I also knew she wanted me to leave that place.

And even though Miss Annabeth never said it, I knew she'd miss me, too.

I don't think God meant for people to not have a family.

Outside the cotton fields was even worse than I thought it would be.

No one would give me a job nor food nor a place to sleep.

Any white man could kill any of us at any time and not be punished for it.

The law wasn't on our side.

The law was against us.

I was hungry all the time.

You know what can happen to you, son?

Get up.

I said, get up.

I'm gonna have to lie to the boss man about that window.

The good Lord say we ain't supposed to lie.

Sorry, sir.

Where's your ma and your pa?

My ma crazy in the head, and my pa got killed.

I'll make you some ham sandwiches and send you on your way.

The boss will be here in a minute.

Sunday's our busiest morning.

You looking for some help? I know how to serve.

You done broke our window, you done stole our food, and now you asking for a job?

Back in Macon, I'm a house nigger, a good one.

Don't you ever use that word, son.

That's the white man's word.

It's filled With hate.

Didn't your father ever teach you any better?

Slow down. Yes, sir.

You got to look through their eyes.

See what it is they want.

Got it? Strokes.

Yeah, I got it. Here.

See what it is they need.

Right this way.


I'm sorry. I'm sorry, ma'am.

Bring a smile to the eyes...

...of your principal.

Perfect. Perfect.

Don't forget to save me them chitlins.

Why you like chitlins so much? 'Cause they're good eating.

The manager of Excelsior, in DC, he came by yesterday.

He offered me a job as a butler.

He must be paying you top dollar, huh, boss?


I was thinking about taking it, but I don't know.

I'm too old to be leaving North Carolina.

I'm just fine right here.

I told him to hire you.

I'm just now finding my way around this hotel.

Ain't ready for all them highfalutin white people, all their fancy words. ours, and the ones that we got to show the white folks.

Now, to get up in the world, you have to make them feel nonthreatened.

Use that, them fancy words that I've taught you.

White folks up north, they like some uppity coloreds.


I took that job up in Washington, DC.

It was the most beautiful hotel I'd ever seen.

I hope it wasn't too presumptuous of me to have prepared a few spirits after your long journey here from Buffalo.

The best decision that court ever made was to slow this whole mess down.

Nigger boys in school with white girls. Who ever heard of such a thing?

Next thing you know, they'd be fornicating.

Gentlemen, this here is different. We could start another Civil War.

Cecil, what do you think about niggers going to school with white children?

To be honest with you, Mr. Jenkins, I tend to not be too concerned with American or European politics.

Nor should you, Cecil. They're all criminals.

Earl Warren should be shot and hanged.

That dumb son-of-a-bitch judge is trying to integrate our schools.

I think Judge Warren is going to find that quite challenging.

Damn right, Cecil. Damn right.

Never in my life did I dream I'd work in a place as fancy as this.

I never dreamed my life could be so good.

Gloria and I met working at the Excelsior.

She was a maid at the hotel, but now her only job was raising our two boys.

I made sure that they never laid eyes on a cotton field.

I got to pee. Not today. Don't try that.

Finish that homework. Where Louis at?

He's taking the trash out. Working late again?

How was your shift? Beats working for a living.

I miss you at night, honey.

Didn't you say you got to pee? Go on, then.

Wash your hands when you come out of that bathroom, boy.

Good morning. Good morning.

Good morning, sir.


Hey, Dad. Hey, Louis.

You all right? Yeah, I'm fine.

Good. That woman whose son got killed, she's around doing speeches now. What's her name, honey?

Mamie Till. Mamie...

Mamie Till. Mm.

I remember that story just like it was yesterday, even though it was three years ago.

It was a dis-damn-grace what they did to that boy.

Just for looking at a white woman.

Beat him up, threw his body in the river, killed him.

He wasn't no older than Louis. He was 14 at the time.

Crazy white folks down South. Thanks, Ma.

At least we got it a little better in DC, huh?

Still treating us bad, too.

Get on down here, Charlie! Wash your hands.

Louis said we should stop taking the white man's shit.

Hey. Shut up.

Watch your mouth. Watch your mouth.

Hello, Gaines' residence.

Uh, yeah. Hold on, Mr. Kidgan.

It's the boss man, Dad. What's he calling for?

When the white man call, I always assume the worst.

Yes, sir?

I would have put money on it that I was getting laid off or something that day.

Would you follow me, please? Yes, sir.

I'm Cecil Gaines.

It's a pleasure to meet you. You, as well.

Have a seat.

Are you political, Mr. Gaines?

No, sir. Good.

We have no tolerance for politics at the White House.

How'd you find me? I didn't.

You served R.D. Warner at the Excelsior Hotel.

He oversees operations for the entire White House.

You made quite an impression. I don't recall.

Mr. Warner and myself make note of potential staff around town.

Butler positions rarely open, as most stay on for 30 years or more.

I know I was quite surprised when I got the call.

It was a surprise for me, as well.

As the White House maître d', I normally hire the butler.

Forgive me for saying this, Mr. Fallows.

I certainly wouldn't want to be hired under circumstances that would make you feel uncomfortable.

Oh, really?

You need butlers that you've handpicked, men to your liking that will fulfill your vision of a proper White House staff.


Is that... Louis XIII?

These decanters are replicas of metal flasks that were found on the battlefield in Jarnac.


The Italians, they know their wines, and the Irish, they certainly know how to make a great whiskey.

But I believe the French have a distinct advantage when it comes to Cognac.

C'est vrai?

Yeah, you'll make a good house nigger.

Would you care for a demitasse?

Sometimes it just be me and Faye up in here.

Me, Faye and a little scotch.

Have a good time.

That's how you do it.

You know how to throw a bash, girl.

What did you do to this potato salad?

I'll tell you what I did. I put some dill in it, because I read in Woman's Day, where pickles drown out the flavor and dill bring up the flavor.

That's what you tasting right now. OK. Yeah.

I like it. Make a difference, don't it?

It really does.

Girl, you must be so proud of Cecil.

You know he got that job hisself. The White House called him, he didn't call the White House. He's a good man.

You got a good man. She's fun, man!

Not like this one right here. OI' sourpuss.

You still mad at me? I got reason.

No, you don't. I told you, I went down to the numbers spot, played my little numbers, got me some barbecue, and then I went down... I didn't even get nothing to drink!

I am so... I'm so sick of these numbers spot stories, Howard.

How you expect me to believe you was down at the numbers spot?

Whether you believe it or not don't mean it ain't true.

Come on, stop this mess. You want to do this right now?

Come on, y'all. Come on, come on, come on.

You don't believe it, you don't have to believe it, but...

Come on, y'all. Such a shuckster.

You really want to do this right now? Stop this right now.

You need to pick on somebody your own size.

We are here to celebrate, so y'all could be nice just one time.

You heard the lady. Come on, get over here, let's celebrate!


That's why I was out, trying to make you happy.

Y'all need to get a room. What? What?

Ain't that the truth? Or something.

He drives me crazy. He just... Ugh!

You ain't, uh... You want to come to the room with us?


Hey, where the boys at? They upstairs in the back room.

Boys! Get on down here! I need to see your face now!

What y'all doing up there? Yes, congratulations.

Honey, when you gonna take me to the White House?

You want to go to the White House, baby?

You know I want to go to the White House.

When you want to go?

Don't play with me now... When you want to go?

The White House, now that's a big step up.

Ooh! Yeah, it's exciting.

Girl, you up in that house now! I want to hear all the stories.

I don't know how many stories you gonna hear, 'cause they done swore him to some kind of secret code, and he can't tell me nothing. No. Girl, you give it to him right.

Mm-hm! He'll tell you everything. That's the key right there.

You listening?

Did you hear her? Who you been giving it to?

Well, if you was at home, I could be giving it to you.

I don't know what you talking about.

Boys, y'all better bring y'all little narrow butts down here!

Here they come. Called y'all 19 times.

Boys, stop running through this house. You know better than that.

Elroy! Get over here. Come here.

Give me some money.

Nah. Tell them... Tell them what you gonna be when you grow up.

I want to work at the White House just like Mr. Gaines.

Ah, that's my boy. Right there.

All right, man.

Louis! What you gonna be when you grow up?

You gonna work at the White House like your daddy?

I don't know. I'll tell you one thing.

I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I was 13.

Yeah, a number runner.

I'm Cecil Gaines. I'm the new butler.

Yes, sir.

There are 16 full-time maids.

We have six butlers, four carpenters, two painters, seven electricians, three dishwashers, three doormen, a full kitchen staff, including pastry chef and three full-time calligraphers.

Two painters, seven electricians, nine engineers...

Here comes Warner.

Uh, Mr. Warner, wanted to thank you for the opportunity to work in the White House...

Come on. Here we go.

Ma'am, I'm Cecil Gaines. I'll be working with you here.

Mr. Gaines, please don't do that.

Come on. Yes, sir.

Now, when lifting a plate, never scrape the bottom.

Never listen or react to conversation.

The room should feel as... Empty when I'm in it.

So then she says...

Then she says, "Stick..."


Then she starts screaming and yells, "Stick your whole hand in!" So I put my whole hand in.

Then she yells out, "Put both hands in!"


Then she screams, "Now clap!"

I say, "I can't."

She looks up, smiles and says, "See, I told you my..."

That ain't funny.

Hey, there he is! Heard you were coming.

What's your name? Cecil.

Cecil Gaines. That ain't funny.

I'm Carter Wilson, head butler. Don't worry about Big Mo behind you.

That brother will steal your wallet before you even knew it.

This brother in the mirror over here, his name's James Holloway.

He's my second in command. James.

Jackie Robinson or Willie Mays?

Why don't you shake the man's hand first before you start asking difficult questions like that?

I just want to know where the man's coming from.

Look like the jury's still out on that one, right?

Welcome. Fancy Freddie give you the tour yet?

He did. Is the Dodgers still... still losing?

I might be able to answer that question if Carter over here stop running his nasty mouth.

Cut the shit and let's get to work.

Ready. Lord, help us.

Don't be nervous, man. Just go on and get to it.

You hear nothing, you see nothing.

You only serve.

Send federal troops to Little Rock?

If it comes to it, yes.

I can't see any situation where I'd send federal troops to the South.

Ever. Could cause another Civil War.

Sir, if the federal government doesn't enforce Brown, then who will?

The South must comply with the law.

It's just gonna take some time to adjust, that's all.

I understand, Mr. President, but if Faubus continues to block the Negro children, then what do we do?

We must enforce the Constitution.

Give Faubus more time.

With a little persuading, he'll back down.

We just want to move slowly.

How'd it go? I almost shit myself.

I dated a girl once. Every time I hit her, she shit herself.

What? Got no sense.

Shut up. You shut up.

I put a towel down.

You know, Marcella said the very same thing last night just before I put her to sleep.

- Wow. You put her... Just like I did Ed.

I'd do it real quick.

- See you! Why?

Dang... Got the popcorn all over the sofa.

Your dad's gonna kill...

Hey, Dad.

Hi, Mr. Gaines. Hey, Dad.

Hey, Elroy.

Louis, I told you about letting these kids watch that show.

It's too scary. They're too young for it.

Turn it off.

All you got to do is smile pretty, and a man will forget everything he ever learned.

Where your mama at?

Miss Gloria tried staying up, but she went to sleep.

Elroy, ain't nobody asked you nothing.

Take your butt home before your mama come up in here and whup the both of us.

Come on, Dad. Go on.

Bye. Turn it off.

Don't go stomping up the stairs, wake your mama up.

What is that?

Is that that Mamie Till stuff?

I want to go to this. Absolutely not.

How come?

Ain't no good can come of that.

Dad, you heard what Mama said?

That mess right there happened down South.

This could have been me. It happened down South.

I got out of there so we could have us a better life.

Right now, I'm working for the white man, make things better for us.

And not just any white man, either.

Put the lights off. Go to bed.

I have your chicken soup, Mr. President.

Just set it on the table, Cecil.

Yes, sir.

Did you ever complete school, Cecil?

I didn't go to school, Mr. President.

I grew up on a cotton farm.

I grew up on a farm.

Do you have any children?

Yes, sir, I have two sons.

Do they go to an all-colored school?

Yes, sir, they do.

What is it?

State Guard just blocked all the colored kids again.

Faubus promised me the guards would escort the kids in.

Governor of Arkansas lied, Mr. President.

What is wrong with him? Why is he forcing me to do this?

Yes, sir.

Our next move needs to be bold and swift.

I have today issued an executive order directing the use of troops under federal authority to aid in the execution of federal law at Little Rock, Arkansas.

This became necessary...

When the president sent those troops down to Little Rock, it was the first time I ever seen a white man stick his neck out for us.

I told Louis that the president was gonna make things better for us.

All graduations are long. She was so nosy.

I'm gonna make some potato salad.

Now he could see that I knew what I was talking about.

That was wonderful. I'm so proud of you.

Thanks, Mama. That hat looks stupid.

Your face looks stupid.

Proud of you, too. Dad, did you see...

Don't start something in there.

Did you see one white kid in my school?

Why couldn't Louis see that the president made things better for us?

Thank you. Cookie?

Cookies. Thanks.

Thank you.

Boy, I told you we was gonna be late!

You cannot miss this bus!

Oh, Lord have mercy. Wait, a sec. Wait, wait, wait.

What? Got to say good-bye.

Bus can wait.

Tennessee is a long ways away, Pop.

Fisk is a really good school, Dad.

You can change your mind and go to Howard.

I cannot believe you are still talking about Howard University.

He's going to Fisk. I know, I know. It's just...

It's just so far away, that's all.

That's the point. What's the point?

Give me a cigarette, and don't tell me you don't smoke.

I don't have one. Come here.

You know you want to cry, punk. Not for you.

Look under your mattress. I left you something.

I can't protect him down South. The South has changed, Cecil.

I'm too young for Playboy.

The South ain't what it was when you was there.

Ma, Louis is leaving me his filthy magazines.

Stop lying on your brother. Why you slapping him?

He's the one with the magazines.

I love you, Mama. I love you, son.

I love you, Louis. I love you.

I made you ham sandwiches. Thanks, Mama.

Come on, Dad.


You're the first.

I know.

I'm really proud of you.

I got to go, Dad.

I got to go.

If you need anything, you call me.

All right. All right?

Bye, Mama.

Bye, Louis.

It's all right.

Remind me again why we're doing this, please.

Somebody? Tell me? That look like a mugging to me, that's what that looks like. This is the art of French baking.

Negro, please. "Art of French baking."

This is absolutely nothing. That's what this is.

I don't... Boy's always so simple.

You want me to play with it? I'll play with it.

Play With it like this.

It'd be good if it had a little... a little nipple on it.

Come on, man.

That's how you play. You jiggle it. You shake it, you know.

This fool.

Good evening, Mr. Vice President.

That looks like a tasty treat.

Yes, sir.

I brought you all something.

Thank you, Mr. Vice President.

I don't want to say anything negative about that Kennedy boy. I'm sure he's a real nice fellow.

But do you really want that spoiled rich son-of-a-bitch fuck to be your next president?

Think about it.

We'll cheer for you, Mr. Vice President.

Thank you, Cecil.

Let me ask you something, in all candor, as members of the Negro community, what are your biggest concerns?

Now, come on now, boys.

Don't be shy.

Holloway, come on.

Well, since you asked, sir... I did.

The colored help gets paid almost 40 percent less than the white help.

Is that right? Yes, sir.

And it's very difficult for the colored staff to be promoted.

I'll tell you what. When I'm president, I'm gonna look into getting you boys the raises and the promotions you deserve.

That... that would be swell, sir.

You got my word on that. Thank you, sir.

Now, you tell your people to vote for me, and that's exactly what's gonna happen.

Give that to somebody.

What do you mean, you don't want to date nobody?

After all these guys that come after you?

Girl, please. I'm just... Like that one?

I'm talking about you and Isaac.

Now, come on, tell me what happened.

Y'all seemed happy.

See, I can't even have a normal conversation with you, because...

Hey. You looking for love, boy?

That's what we call the Lawson workshop, the love school.

Is that what you're looking for? That's why I came to Fisk.

Me, too.

I'm Carol Hammie. Louis Gaines.

Come on. Follow me.

You a country boy, ain't you?

He's a doctor. What does your dad do?

He's in politics.

You were gonna need help finding this place anyway.

...nor can you sustain it over a month.

Really? This requires time, commitment, dedication, discipline and focus.

And we are measuring our accomplishments in waves, right?

This is not a fly-by-night affair. This doesn't happen over a week.

This requires a fierce discipline, which is what we've been discussing.

How do you measure these things?

We go back, and we look at somebody like Gandhi.

Together, we are gonna study and examine Gandhi's techniques.

What has been so effective in South Africa, so effective in India, for his own people and others, and we're gonna employ it right here, in Nashville.

So we're gonna form an army. You and I.

This army has one weapon. That weapon is love.

Now, I am of the... yes.

If our only weapon is love, and then their weapons are weapons, I mean, isn't that dangerous? Oh, you can be killed.

If anybody's uncomfortable with that, you know where the door is.

I understand that sounds provocative, but it's true.

All right, kids. It's show time.

Gandhi has demonstrated for us that the brown man, in his native land, or anywhere that he's being oppressed...

...can pull himself out of segregation with patience, with persistence, with intelligence and thought, with discipline...

...and a bit of a sense of humor.

You know y'all can't sit here.

We would like to be served, please.

This is unprecedented, what we're talking about, but it needs a patience that none of us have ever seen.

You can order food in the colored section, but I'm not gonna be serving you here.

We are organized. We have a leader with every group.

We have lookouts with pocket change and the local phone numbers for ambulances ready, and when one wave comes off that lunch counter, what follows?

A whole 'nother wave of Negro students sitting at that lunch counter, blowing their mind.

We would like to be served, please.

Now, who wants to role-play?

Jim, I need your help over here.

Now, y'all know you're not supposed to sit there.

Attack. Get up, nigger! Get up!

This is an experiment.

So do whatever it takes to break their spirits.

Come on, get up, nigger. Use the language.

I need to hear "nigger" coming out of your mouth.

I need to hear "coon." I don't feel comfortable saying that.

You came here to get yourself prepared and to get her prepared.

So let me hear it now.

Nigger. Louder.

Say the words like you mean it.

Nigger. Louder.

You are a nigger!

You need to be sitting in the colored seating.

This is not for you, you cannot be served here.

You need to do as you're told and sit in your place.

You are a nigger. Make her believe it.

I don't believe you. You're a nigger.

You know that's where the colored people sit.

You see these people over here? They're in their section over here.

You coon ass! Get up, you nigger!

If you want us to shop in this establishment, make them go.

Come on, Robert, let's go.

Nigger lover, get out!

Get up, monkey. Get up! What is this?

Are you listening to us?

This says "whites only."

Get up, nigger. Get up!

Coons here? What are you doing here?

Does it say "coons?" "Whites only."

You don't belong here with them. This? What is this, huh?

Does it say "coons" here, huh? What are you doing here?

Pay attention. No, this is whites only.

You don't belong here at all.

What are you reading? I didn't know niggers could read.

What are you, stupid? You're a nigger lover now?

Get up, you nigger! Look at me!

Look at me! What are you doing?

You disrespectful monkey. Huh?

Do you understand? You understand?

Stop it! Stop it!

What do you think you're doing here?

Get up! Get up, you nigger! Look at me! Look at me!

That up there or is that here?

You don't have to tell me, but you have to decide. I was a nigger.

Go back to where you came from! Here, you want some coffee?

...the niggers are better off in their own schools than they are in the white schools.

To serving our country. Serving our country.

My man.

I feel rich right now. I like the way that tastes.

They got no business out here.

...better off in their own schools than they are in the white schools.

You're all sentenced to 30 days in the county jail. What?

Bailiff, get these niggers out of here.

Something special is going on down here, Dad.

What's so special about another colored man in jail?

What you doing with my hard earned money, Pop?

Are you even in school?

I'm trying to change the way Negroes...

You're breaking the law.

That judge just sentenced you to 30 days in the county workhouse.

You fixing to get killed.

If I can't sit at any lunch counter I want, then I might as well be dead.

We're fighting for our rights. Rights?

What are you talking about? We're trying to change the nation's consciousness toward the American Negro.

Them postcards you've been sending me?

You're a damn liar. I have been in school.

Who do you think you're talking to?

I brought you into this world, I can take you out of it.

Y'all been able to talk to him? Talk to who?

Louis. Yeah, we talk to him.

Said he's joined something called the "Freedom Riders," whatever the hell that's supposed to mean.

You gonna see him?

I been fixing to trying to see him.

Every time I do, Cecil get all riled up.

So I don't know when that's gonna happen.

"Fixing to trying." See, that's the problem.

You got to stop trying, and you just got to do it.

He take you to the White House yet?

No. Cecil say we're going soon.

"Cecil say, Cecil say."

Four years. That's what makes you a little bit gullible, darling.

I don't understand. I don't understand why he can't get the president to do something. See, Gina, that's your problem.

You just say stupid stuff.

President got more to do than be thinking about Louis' foolishness.

You know, why don't you just shut up?

It's just a mess. Be nice.

Who told you you could tell me to shut up?

Well... You... Go get me a drink.

I want some scotch.

Well, I personally think Louis is gonna get every one of us killed.

They coming to get us. They coming to get us.

He crazy like his mama.

I meant it in a good way.

I'm sorry! I'm sorry.

Get back over here.

Let me get your ass.

I received also a wire from President Eisenhower, which says...

The president lives at the White House until the moment the next one is sworn in.

So the staff has exactly two hours during the inauguration ceremony, to move the old president out and move the new one in.

They say this new white boy's smooth.

I just need to get my butt home to Gloria.

'Cause these hours, they're killing us.

How's your boy doing, Cecil?

Gentlemen, the president's arriving.

OK. Where shall we start?

I'm not sure. This end, maybe over there?

Thank you. Right this way, Mr. President.

Hello, everyone. Mr. President.

I am thrilled to be working with all of you over the next four years.

Eight years, Jack.

Well, you see who wears the pants around here.

I'm not gonna remember any of your names, but I'm gonna try.

Jessie. It's a good thing you're here 'cause I'm gonna forget.

Thank you. This is Lorraine. Pleasure to meet you.

Mr. President. How are you, James?

Carter. Pleasure, Mr. President.

Carter. This is Cecil.

Pleasure to meet you, Mr. President. How are you?

William. Mrs. Kennedy.

Greg. How are you?


I got it. She's all right.

Pleasure to meet you, Miss Caroline.

Miles. Miles.

What's that on your breath, Gloria? Stop, OK. Stop.

What's that? Baby, that's gin.

I can smell it from here. It said "Addison's disease."

Stop. Stop it, will you stop?

Did you take Charlie to the dentist today?

Somebody at the White House got Addison's disease?

No, I did not take Charlie to the dentist today.

And what you asking me about it for? You never home.

Now you gonna act like you gonna take Charlie to the dentist?

You ain't never here. I don't know how you gonna take him.

His teeth fall out, waiting on you to take him.

Just go to bed, Gloria. I'll take him tomorrow.

How many pairs of shoes does she have?

I said, how many pairs of shoes does Mrs. Jackie Kennedy have?

How the hell do I know?

You're in that ol' White House day and night.

Thought you knew everything.

Coming in, trying to tell me what to do.

Worried about me drinking.

You ought to be worried about your house.

Our boy's in jail, Cecil.

Our boy's in jail, and you can't come home.

You... You don't see I'm here, trying to talk to you?

I bet you wish I spoke French, just like Jackie.

Jackie Kennedy.

Que sera, sera.

You like that?

You like the way she talk?

Cecil, you hear me talking to you.

You ain't asleep.

Bobby told the president they shouldn't be worried about the Negro sit-ins.

Polls show the US does not support civil rights.

Told you that white boy was smooth. A little too smooth for my money.

Hey, Cecil, how's your boy doing? Out of jail, says he's back in school, but I think he's doing that freedom riding thing.

How's Gloria doing with that drinking?

She's hanging.

They say that cat that's playing is a big deal.

Pablo Casals, world famous. Course he's world famous.

You think Mrs. Kennedy is gonna have, uh... some backwoods country fiddle band playing out there for her?

Man. Why don't you start a band?

Maybe you can go out there, too.

You know what, in fact, let's all start a band.

I'll play the bongos. What about you?

I play a mean... skin flute.

He refuses to play in any country that recognizes Franco's regime.

Who's Franco?

Forget it, man. Huh?

Forget it. You're ignorant.

Carol, are you tired?

You just want me to put my head on your shoulder.

What wrong with that?

I'm not putting my head on your shoulder.

You can.

Ever been on a freedom bus before?

No, it's my first time. No?

How's your boyfriend feel about that? My boyfriend?

Yeah. I mean, this must upset him, right?

You being on this bus down here.

I don't have a boyfriend. You don't have a boyfriend?

How do you not have a boyfriend?

You want some peanuts? No, thank you.

You like peanuts or...? I don't like peanuts.

I'm too hot to eat. Hey, can I have some of those?

Long bus ride. OK.

Louis, what is that?

It's a cross. It's a cross. Driver, turn! Turn the bus!

Oh, shit.

Niggers, get out here!

Nigger, go home! Nigger, go home!

Oh, my God. Everybody out!

"In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines...

...lived 12 little girls in two straight lines.

The smallest one was Madeline."

Like Caroline. Mm-hm.

"She was not afraid of mice."

Why do people ride in the freedom bus?

Uncle Bobby told my daddy that the freedom bus exploded today.

I can't tell you if I walked off the bus or if I crawled off or if someone pulled me off.

I didn't know if my boy was dead or alive.

When I got off the bus, a man came up to me, and I'm coughing and strangling, and he said, "Boy, you all right?"

And I nodded my head, and the next thing I knew, I was on the ground.

He had hit me with a baseball bat.


Hi, Dad. I'm in Mississippi.

I thought you was in Alabama.

We spent two weeks in jail there, now we're in Mississippi.

I want you to listen to me, Louis.

I want you to come home.

I know we ain't seen eye to eye, but your mama, she wants you home.

They're keeping me. How long?

- Where is he? I don't know.

They said three months.

When I get out, I'm gonna take another ride.

What are you talking about? What's he saying?

Let me talk to him. Give me that phone.

It is my right to ride that bus. That is my legal right.

I will exercise my rights as an American citizen.

American citizen. What you talking about?

You know what they're gonna do to you?

They're gonna lynch you and then they're gonna throw your little ass in the river.

They're gonna kill you.

Ma, then they're just gonna have to kill me.

...Negro and white in Birmingham have been building up to scenes with clashes, like this.

The situation was perilously close to an explosion.

Arrests were made in mass lots.

Everyone charged with the same offense...

Here you are, Mr. President.

I'll wait for your signature.

City police were carrying out their pledge to fill their jails to capacity if necessary.

They are acting according to the wishes...

I don't know what country I'm looking at.

...tone of the city for many years.

Get off! Get off!

Residents here have taken to the streets in Birmingham, Alabama, to bring attention to their efforts against the segregation of black Americans.

This is following earlier boycotts in Birmingham to pressure...

Hey, Louis, man, that little nigga might be onto something.

Stop calling him a nigga, 'cause he ain't no nigga.

What's wrong, baby?

What's wrong with me is this. What are you talking about?

This is what's wrong with me. This is wrong. This is wrong.

We ain't been wrong yet. I can't do this to Cecil.

We ain't doing it to Cecil. I'm doing it to you.

I want you out of my house.

Why do you think God brought us next to each other each day?

God ain't got nothing to do with this. He put you right next door to me.

You always talking about how lonely you are without Cecil being at the White House, and you need a man that can appreciate the love and the woman that you are, like I do.

I want your number-running ass up out of my house, off of my sofa right now.

I'm... I'm through. I told you.

Let me make a demonstration for you.

Don't come here with this bullshit crazy talk.

It's not. Some more of this...

This is you, right? You got your direction that you move in.

What you doing with my hangers? This is you, and this is me.

Now, we seem like we don't fit at all. We just crash into each other.

But then when you align things properly, like God putting you next door to me, everything kind of works out.

And even if you slow down, I got you.

You need to get your yellow ass up out of my house.

We need each other. What I need is my husband.

And not to be laying up here in the gutter with you.

On average, how many pills do you think I take a day, Cecil?

About... 103, sir.

Help me up. Mr. President.

I know your son is a Freedom Ryder.

He's in prison right now in Birmingham with Martin Luther King.

Do you, uh... know how he is, sir?

I'm guessing he's pretty beat up, but based on his record, he must be used to it.

Cecil, he's been arrested 16 times over the past two years.

Yes, sir.

Will that be all, sir? That's it.

You know, I never understood what you all really went through...

...until I saw that.

My brother says these kids have...

...changed his heart.

They've changed mine, too.

The fires of discord are burning in every city North and South, where legal remedies are not at hand.

Redress is sought in the streets, in demonstrations, parades and protests.

I am therefore asking the Congress to enact legislation giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public.

Hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores and similar establishments.

This seems to me to be an elementary right.

Its denial is an arbitrary indignity that no American in 1963 should have to endure, but many do.

A great change is at hand.

And our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all.

Those who do nothing are inviting shame as well as violence...

Hey. Hey, Cecil. Cecil, what's wrong?



They blew his...

...head off.

Who are you talking about? Kennedy.

President Kennedy was shot as he drove from Dallas airport to downtown Dallas...

They killed him.

Governor Connally of Texas in the car with him was also shot.

It is reported that three bullets rang out.

A Secret Serviceman has been...

They killed our man.

"He's dead." Whether he referred to President Kennedy or not is not yet known.

The president, cradled in the arms of his wife, Mrs. Kennedy, was carried to an ambulance and the car rushed to Parkland Hospital outside Dallas...

Mrs. Kennedy refused to change her clothes, so that everybody could see what they did to her husband.

The last time I saw that much blood was the day my daddy was killed.

Please tell me how I could help you.

Ma, what you doing?

Here. Want you to take this box and put it in the basement.

Make sure you label it "trophies." This is Louis' stuff, Ma.

You know he gonna be pissed.

I don't care nothing about Louis being pissed.

I'm the one pissed. He ain't been here in three years.

Why you pissed, Mama?

And don't put that next to my jarred okra either.

Ain't nobody trying to smell that stankin' okra.

And when you come back, I want you to get me some fish food.

Look what the president...

...Mrs. Kennedy gave me.

Belonged to the president.


President was killed.

I'm really sorry about the president.

I really am.

But you and that White House can kiss my ass.

I don't care what goes on in that house.

I care about what goes on in this house.

I knew that Gloria had been unhappy for some time now.

I knew that's probably why she drank.

She wanted me to get along better with Louis.

I didn't know how.

I couldn't.

I could cut back them long hours at the White House.

And I did just that.

How many pairs of shoes she got?

She got about... 125.

A hundred twenty-five pairs of shoes? Yeah.

Put them in a line from the blacks all the way to the whites.

And I'll tell you what. Next time there's a light on in an empty room, I will fire every sorry son of a bitch in this house. I mean it, Cecil!

Go back to Texas and run the country from a dirt shack if I have to.

Is that what you want?

Who do you think pays the goddamned bills around here?

I don't, but you know what I mean.

Yes, sir.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot.

Lady Bird and I want you to have this.

Matches your eyes. Thank you, sir.

Get it, Gloria. Do it, baby.

Swim it! Go ahead, Gloria.

I see you, baby. You see me, babe? Put it on.

Get it, Gloria.

Now that's what I'm talking about. Get it, girl! Shake it out! Get it!

Negro! Get out here.

Back there stinking up my bathroom.

Oh, Lord. Oh, Lord.

What you doing?

Hey! Whoo!


Get you some!

You know. That's your friend.

Give me my wig! What's wrong with you?!

This my good wig! Oh, shit!

Sit down. We got the spades up.

Brother just handling his business.

He can still do the splits, I'll tell you.

James told me that Dr. King told the president that we would be going to the streets down South for our right to vote.

Didn't you, baby? What?

Didn't you tell me that Dr. King told the president that we was going down South for our right to vote?

I ain't make that up. Is that what you heard?

That Dr. King ain't no joke, with his little militant ass.

She talking too damned much. Well, sound like somebody talking.

Shut up.

Leave my bird alone. Well, you know them three kids got killed down there, trying to get colored folks registered to vote.

That's why I didn't want Louis to go down there.

That's what I was trying to tell you.

You shouldn't have sent him down there.

I know. He is down there now, and there ain't nothing we can do about it.

The only reason the president sent the FBI is 'cause two of them were white.

Now who told you that? Yeah, who told her that?

It was in one of them colored newspapers from Baltimore. That all right with you?

See, she getting smart now.

Honey, you think the president ought to do something about the Voting Rights bill? That ain't the trump.

President Johnson just passed the greatest piece of civil rights legislation since Lincoln freed the slaves.

It's gonna be very difficult to pass another bill anytime soon.

That's it. You see how my wife quizzes me?

I get it every day. Only, you got to know how much to say, when you cross the line.

You deal with your woman, I'll deal with mine.

At least you tell your wife what's going on over there.

Aces! Damn!

Can't be a king in your own castle.

You hit the strip joint, that's what I say.

Hey, uh, Glo. Did you hear about your neighbor, Howard?

Guy down on 8th Street, caught him in bed with his wife.

Shot him dead.

Shot him in the back. That's it. That's all of it.

I don't know, maybe he got what he deserved.

You sorry sap asses got to realize the Negro ain't gonna take it no more.

This entire country is a tinderbox.

Goddamn tinderbox of nigger rage just waiting to explode!

Now, I want you all to get on the phone, call the NAACP, CORE and whoever else will listen to your sorry asses and help me keep them Negroes off the street.

Buck, I smell your ass from here! What the hell are you waiting for?!

Jesus Christ.

Cecil, get me some of that goddamned prune juice.

I'm not sure what to make of Malcolm X.

I know what to make of him.

Got a better plan in place than Dr. King.

If someone puts their hands on you, put them in the cemetery.

That a better plan? Ooh, We fixin' to go.

Bye, Claramay.

Good night. Good night.

I mean...

You just mad 'cause he was talking about your daddy.


He was saying all that stuff about house Negroes.

I saw you get mad.

My dad is not a house Negro.

He a butler, ain't he? Don't talk about my dad.

I don't talk about your dad, all right?

That's 'cause my daddy's proud of what I'm doing.

You all right?

Everybody went to church to raise money for the kids down in Selma.

But I didn't go. I wasn't gonna give money to pay for my son to be killed.

Once again, them kids got beat.

This one was so bad that the press called it "Bloody Sunday."

They barely left Selma.

They marched in small groups through the city of Selma

- and were not stopped... ...mortars and rockets...

...can pound Con Thien around the clock with devastating effect.

And our ground troops cannot go into... was a different story.

Mounted sheriff's deputies helped to break up the column.

Once the line was broken...

How are your boys, Cecil?

I don't know how my oldest is, Mr. President.

I believe he might be in Selma.

And, you know, sometime I feel like we're living in two different worlds.

Just want to keep him safe.

...marchers were treated for tear gas burns, open wounds and broken bones.

One hospital treated...

Every American citizen must have an equal right to vote.

Yet the harsh fact is that in many places in this country, men and women are kept from voting simply because they are Negroes.


Since when did he start calling us Negroes?

That nigger uses the word "nigger" more than I use it.

But really it's all of us...

...who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.

And we shall overcome.

First, a barrage of cover fire, and then a charge across the street.

The Marines moved out from the fortified Army compound blitzed by the original attack.

Hey, hey, LBJ!

How many kids did you kill today?!

Hey, hey, LBJ!

How many kids did you kill today?!

...the ancient imperial city.

It is to Vietnamese what old Boston is to Americans, where many of its country's leaders are born or educated.

I wish they'd shut up.

The first sniper shots ricochet around the thick walls of the building, taking the first casualties of the first squad.

The snipers may be only two or three, invisible to the buildings beyond the wall.

But there is also a machine gun down the street to the left.

Dr. King, you might want to lie down with that fever.

President Johnson is making a tragic error in Vietnam.

Move over, big yellow.

Why shouldn't we fight in Vietnam?

The Vietcong don't call us "niggers," for one.

Seriously, how many of your parents support the war?

Well, my Lord. Why do your parents support it?

We haven't spoken about it specifically, I just know they do.

Well, what do your daddy do?

He's a butler.

The black domestic play an important role in our history.

I didn't tell you that to make fun of me.

Young brother, the black domestic defy racial stereotypes by being hardworking and trustworthy.

He slowly tears down racial hatred with his example of a strong work ethic and dignified character.

Now, while we perceive the butler or the maid to be subservient, in many ways, they are subversive, without even knowing it.

Come in, Cecil. Afternoon, Mr. Warner.

Thank you for seeing me.

Since the colored...

...the black staff does just as much work as the white staff, I believe that our salaries should reflect our service, sir.

"Black" staff?

I also feel that we should have...

...opportunities of advancement.

No black houseman has ever been promoted to the engineer's office.

You're very well liked here, Cecil.

But if you're unhappy with your salary or position, then I suggest you seek employment elsewhere.

With all due respect... Don't let that Martin Luther King shit fill your britches out. Just remember where I found you.

Yes, sir.

Excuse me.

Dr. Martin Luther King, the apostle of non-violence in the civil rights movement has been shot to death in Memphis, Tennessee.

Police have issued an All Points Bulletin for a well-dressed, young white man seen running from the scene.

Officers also reportedly chased and fired on a radio-equipped car containing two white men.

I didn't know if I was gonna get home alive.

It was the first time I felt like I didn't belong in my own neighborhood.

The whole world was changing, and I didn't know where I fit in.

Dr. King has been a buffer the last two years, between the black community and the white community.

The white people do not know it, but the white people's best friend is dead.

The black people's leader, our Moses, the once in a four- or five-hundred year leader, has been taken from us by hatred and bitterness.

Even as I stand at this hour, I cannot even allow hate to enter my heart at this time, for it was sickness, not meanness, that killed him.

Ma... my room's pink.

Make sure you get some more of my sweet potatoes, Carol.

I use orange juice when I make 'em, that's what make 'em so... tart.

How long y'all been dating?

Five years. We're just friends.

Is, uh, all the rest of the students are they getting involved in politics, too?

There's been a division. Kind of a split, Ma.

A few of them, like John Lewis, they're still...

I love John Lewis. How you know who John Lewis is?

'Cause, honey, I read Jet magazine.

I'm not just sitting up there sewing for you all day.


I'm sick and tired of getting thrown in jail.

Yeah, well, that makes two of us, don't it?

Dr. King's philosophy ultimately got him murdered.

It worked when we started, but... now it's time to take the next step, which is politics.

So y'all going to the White House now?

Daddy, Louis going to the White House.

You know they ain't gonna let you in there with them nipples out.

Maybe one, but not both of 'em.

Shut up. Nah, we're... we're more grass roots.

One-on-one with the community.

Although we have started our own political party.

What's your party?

You like to party?

I like to party. What's your party called?

The Black Panther Party.

What kind of name is that? What's that stand for?

We... provide free breakfast for children, free medical clinics, free clothing, self-defense classes.

And why y'all need self-defense?

We ain't gettin' beat no more.

Me and your daddy saw a wonderful movie the other night.

Reminded me so much of you.

Oh, yeah?

What was the name of that movie, honey?

In the Heat of the Night.

In the Heat... of the Night, with Sidney Poitier.

Lord, Sidney Poitier. I love Sidney Poitier.

Sidney Poitier's a white man's fantasy of what he wants us to be.

But his movies have him fighting for equal rights.

Only in a way that's acceptable to the white status quo.

Ah. The brother can't act.

What are you talking about?

He just won the Academy Award.

He's breaking down barriers for all of us.

By being white. By acting white.

Sidney Poitier is nothing but a rich Uncle Tom.

Look at you.

All puffed up.

With your hat on your head.

Coming in here, saying whatever you want.

Girlfriend belching at the table.

You don't even feel you gotta go to school, even though I gave you the money.

You need to go.

Yeah, Louis. I need you to get out of my house.

What? Get the hell out of my house!

What are you doing? Get on out!

He's gotta go! No, Cecil, no!

I can't take this no more! We ain't seen this boy!

We ain't seen this boy!

I'm gonna snatch the life out of you, boy!

Now, everybody just sit down. I'm sorry, Mr. Butler, I didn't mean to make fun of your hero.

Everything you are and everything you have is...

...'cause of that butler.

Now you take that trifling low-class bitch...

...and get out of this house.

I like Sidney Poitier, Daddy.

What's that movie he did? Look Who's Coming to Dinner?

Everything ain't a joke.

Carol came to dinner. Hush, Charlie.

Police took Louis the next day.

Y'all gonna make me late for work.

Unc, I'm sorry.

Who else I'm supposed to call to bail him out?

What they got him in for this time? Sit up!

Louis said they stopped him just because.

Just because.

He said he wasn't going to get beat no more, so...

...he got out the car and he hit 'em back.

What about that little gal of his?

They put her in the hospital.

The hospital.


This shit's gotta stop, man.

I'm late for work.

You tell Louis I'm not his mama.

I want my money back.

You all right?

Yeah, I'm all right.

Thanks, Uncle Carter.

You need to take all this Black Panther shit somewhere else.

Now, I'm not them. I want my money back, hear me?

Yes, sir. Every dime.

Yes, sir. Hey, Unc... don't tell Daddy.

How you avoid all that sex in prison?

Do they teach you that with the Panthers?

They teach you how to... to sit...

She been drinking again? No. She's sober.

She ain't doing nothing but sewing and feeding them damn fishes.

Feed them more than she feed me.

You excited about going back to Howard?

Excited about not going back.

What? Yeah.

I'm going to Vietnam.

Charlie, don't do this. Don't do this.

This country treats us like dogs! And do what? Don't do this?

You fight your country.

I want to fight for my country.

I won't go to your funeral. Good.

'Cause I don't want you there with all of that... leather and latex, shining and taking away the attention off of my pretty face in my casket.

What do they call you now, Louise?

Shut up. Louise Gaines.

Charlie, shut up.

I want to know every goddamn domestic policy decision right now, and I want it on the table right now.


Did you get the memos we sent last week?

John and I strongly agree that the time calls for...

A goddamn fly, a goddamn fly in here.

Jesus Christ. John and I both think that the time calls for a period of benign neglect.

Benign neglect. Yes.

I like that. I like that.

You know, the pigs in the media describe us as terrorists.

A terrorist is one who terrorizes and frightens others.

We the ones getting terrorized.

How can we exist in, in peace, when we scared to walk down the street to the store?

All right, there's this whole black power movement going on, right?

Right. What if we, um...

What if Nixon promotes black power to mean "black businesses" and we find ways to support black entrepreneurs, pass the buck on desegregation to the courts.

Push black enterprise to win the 20 percent of the votes it could swing our way.

Excellent, sir. Absolutely.

You don't know if your ceiling gonna cave in 'cause your slum lord too busy running around collecting rent checks.

But he won't fix your roof.

It's time we take a stand against these injustices that have plagued our community.

They take one of ours, we taking two of theirs.

That's right. It's been time.

We just need to make sure that Nixon black power doesn't equate Nixon with the Black Panthers.

Have you lost your mind, man? Did you read Hoover's last memo on that?

That's my point. Goddamn terrifying.

No, no, no. I gave him the green light to gut those sons of bitches.

Good. Good. Absolutely.

No, round 'em all up and throw 'em down an elevator shaft.

I don't proclaim to know everything. But I promise you...

...they'll always beware of the nigger with a gun.

Will there be anything else, Mr. President?

How many kids we got coming to the breakfast tomorrow morning?

Got about 25 to 30 coming.

Twenty-five to 30 kids will be able to go to school and focus on their lessons.

'Cause they don't want us to be able to feed our kids.

They don't want us to be able to protect ourselves.

What are we doing here?

Thought this was going to be our community service.

This is community service.

"Someone kills one of ours, we kill two of theirs?"

Community protection.

Are you ready to kill somebody, Carol?

'Cause I ain't.

I am.

Did you ever love me, baby?

Today, a day after police shot it out with the Black Panthers, killing two of them, they raided the apartment...

...the shooting of 26 Panthers in the past year, may represent a national campaign by police to wipe out the Panthers...

...the criminal reaction of the occupants in shooting at announced police officers, emphasizes the extreme viciousness of the Black Panther Party.

Hey, baby. Hey.

Happy birthday. Happy birthday to me, huh?

Happy birthday to you.

Right now, this is the present I want, right here.

Well, you want it right here?

Mm-mm, you know right...

Right here? Kids up... Kids down...?

Ain't no kids in the house no more.

Hey, I made you a birthday cake.

I got all the cake I want right here.

No, you crazy.

I got some champagne cooling in the icebox.

And some ice cream, too. Get some ice cream.

You gonna be drinking with me?

You know I don't drink.

I don't drink.

Just playing with you.

I just want to see you move a little bit. Go ahead.

Oh, my God!

We get any mail from Charlie today?


No? Haven't heard from Charlie.

I know. I got an idea.

I think we should go to Shantay's tonight.

Oh, no. No, I'm too old for disco.

We not old. Come on. We ain't old.

I just don't feel like doing no disco.

Our boys are gone. It's just you and me.

You and me, we are free. I forgot this. I forgot this.

Now, look at us. Little happy birthday present.

I want you to go put it on, upstairs.

Put it on? Yeah. Go put it on.

All right. Make it snappy.

Bring down my sewing kit, 'cause I need to do some alterations.

Make it snappy!


Hi. Where are you?


You should call me back, because this is not a good time.

He's home again. It fit!

We gonna go on out tonight. Where?

He's home and... Boy, you good, aren't you?

You all right? Who that?

Call me back.

OK? Oh, it's Louis.

He asking for some money?

Hey, Louis.

I didn't expect to hear from you on my birthday.

You should feel ashamed of yourself.

You're a grown-ass man calling your mama, asking for money.

And guess what? It's the butler's money.

It's Uncle Tom's money.

And he ain't giving none out today.


I got it.

You got the wrong house.

It's the wrong house.

Vietnam took my boy, and I didn't understand why we were there in the first place.

Your father still alive, Cecil?

No, sir.

My father died when I was a child.

Is there anything else that you would like, Mr. President?

Yeah. Come sit.

Sit down, you know?

There's been a lot of talk of me resigning and...

...things of that nature, but I just want you to know it's never gonna happen.

I'm gonna come out of this thing stronger than ever.

Is there anything else that you would like...

...Mr. President?

Louis is here, looking for you.

Got everybody all worried. Well, I finished school.

I got my master's in political science.

Hey! That's what I'm talking about.

Get that education.

There he is! Well, I'm gonna let you all to it.

Ain't no need for that, Carter.

Hey, Dad. Get out of here, Louis.

Dad... I said leave.

Keep doing what you doing.

Thank you, Uncle Carter.

Why you do that? Huh? That was wrong.

That boy's hurting, too. He's just trying to get his act together.

He should be hurting, Carter.

Boy didn't even go to his own brother's funeral.

He's full of shit is what he is. He ain't doing nothing right.

He just got his master's! What more you want him to do?

Every gray hair I have is 'cause of that boy.

The years started to drift by, but the pain in my heart never went away.

Through it all, Louis and I never spoke.

As we are a nation under God, so I am sworn...

Half of our oil is now imported...

It is a crisis that strikes at the very hear': and soul and spirit of our national will.

- I feel one coming now. Not to worry.

Two of you, stay home until you feel better.

OK, Barn, I'll stay. But I ain't never gonna feel no better.

In our district alone, we have nine percent unemployment.

In the country at large, 14 percent are living below the poverty line.

Sixty percent of those are either black or Hispanic.

Now, if I'm voted to Congress, reducing those figures is gonna be one of my primary objectives.


Oh, hey.

Thanks for getting back to me.

How much did he lose by?


All right, then.

I appreciate it.

No, he didn't win.

I think you should call him.

Right after Charlie passed, Louis came over and paid me a visit.


He found me on the kitchen floor.

I had passed out.


I'd gone to the bathroom all over myself.

He's the one that cleaned me up.

And then he told me I was the best mother anybody could ever want.

I think, about now...

...he'd want to hear from his daddy.

I think you ought to call him.




Yes, sir, Mr. President.

You stay there, I'm coming to you.

I... have a...

...secret mission for you.

Yes, sir.

I like to send people money when they write me about their financial problems, but my staff has been trying to get me to stop.

You think you could help me to keep this going?

Absolutely, Mr. President.

Well, I appreciate your help with this.

And, please, don't tell Nancy.

Of course not.

Morning, Cecil. Morning, Mr. Warner.

May I sit down?

I've been here for over 20 years now.

For all that time, the black help has been paid a smaller salary than the white help.

And I just don't think that's right, Mr. Warner.

There are black housemen who should be engineers by now.

They should've been promoted years ago.

You think so?

I'm gonna have to be paid the same as the white help, or I'm gonna have to move on.

I guess you'll be moving on then.

I told the president that you'd say that.

He told me to tell you to take this up with him, personally.

Excuse me.

I'm not comfortable with all the foreign policy hawks surrounding Ronnie, Jim.

We need more moderates on his staff. And a summit with the Russians.

Ronnie has to meet with them face to face if we're ever going to thaw this ice.

Cecil. Yes, Mrs. Reagan?

We will talk, Jim. Yes.

Yes, ma'am?

You're very popular around here.

Everyone says you're the man that got them raises and promotions.

I had no idea. I wish I could take credit for that.

I'd like to invite you to the State Dinner next week.

I'm gonna be there, Mrs. Reagan. No.

Not as a... Not as a butler, Cecil. I'm inviting you as a guest.

But the president prefers for me to serve him personally.

Don't you worry about, Ronnie. I'll take care of that.

So we'll see you next week. You and your wife.

My Wife?

It's... It's Gloria, yes?

Yes, ma'am. Yes.


Here's the Entrance Hall.


Can I get you a glass of champagne, Mr. Gaines?

Shut up. Right.

Ladies and gentlemen, the President and First Lady of the United States.

It was different sitting at the table instead of serving it.

Real different.

I could see the two faces the butlers wore to survive.

And I knew I'd lived my life with those same two faces.

Gloria looked so happy, but I didn't feel the same way.

I guess I wished we were there for real instead of for show.

I think that's bon appétit, everybody.

You black mother...

I want to make myself clear on this issue.

If Congress passes sanctions against South Africa, I will be forced to veto those sanctions.

Well, Mr. President, we feel that that would be a major mistake.

The brutal repression of South African black citizens makes this no longer a foreign policy issue, but a United States racial issue.

We're senators from your own party.

That's why we feel so comfortable in letting you know that South Africa is a human rights disaster.

Black people are being beaten, tortured, gunned down in the middle of the street.

Americans see all this on TV, they're horrified by apartheid.

I've made my decision.

Mr. President, your reputation as a world leader is at stake.

United States of America needs to be on the right side of history on the race issue.

I say again.

If Congress passes this bill, I Will veto it.


What? You reading now?

Get up and do the dishes 'fore I shoot your little ass.

Nothing seemed right to me after that State Dinner.

Got all confused.

They had started writing books about everything Louis and his friends had done.

Louis was never a criminal.

He was a hero, fighting to save the soul of our country.

Would you like a cookie? Thank you, sir.

Cookies. Thank you.


Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you.


I had always loved sewing. But just felt different now.

I didn't know that an old man could feel so lost.

That's how I felt.

That's how I felt.

Americans always turned a blind eye to what we'd done to our own.

We look out to the world and judge.

We hear about the concentration camps, but these camps went on for 200 years right here in America.

Buried my daddy right over there.

My mama would've been right proud of me, being with a man like you's.

Taking such good care of me all of these years.

I love you, Cecil Gaines.

I love you more, Gloria.

Are you sure about this?

Yes, sir.

I just want to be the one to tell you first, that's all.

But you're the best butler here.

You're like family, Cecil.

Been an honor serving you.

Well, not just for me, I'm sure I speak for all the presidents when I say that you've served your country well.

Thank you, Mr. President.


This whole civil rights issue...

I sometimes fear I'm... on the wrong side of it, that I'm...

...just wrong.

Sometimes I think I'm just scared of what it really means.

But I'm trying not to be so scared anymore.

- Who do we want to free?! Mandela!

When do we want him free?

Now! Free Mandela!

Twenty years ago, we marched in this country for our rights.

Today, we march to free the people of South Africa.


Ronald Reagan has attacked or dismantled every civil rights program that has ever been put in place.

Yeah! Right!

Aiding the oppression of black South Africans is absolutely consistent with his policies on race issues. Am I right?

Am I right? Yes!

Hold on, hold on.

Excuse me. Steven? Where's Steven?

Free Mandela! Free Mandela, y'all!

Free Mandela!

Free Mandela! Free Mandela! Free Mandela!

Hi, Dad.

Hi, Louis.

What are you doing here?

I came here to protest with you.

You'll get arrested, Dad. You'll lose your job.

I lost you.

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry, son.

Don't worry, Dad, we'll be out of here in a few hours.

Who said I was worried?

After going to jail, I thought I'd seen it all.

You OK, Daddy? Yeah, no, no, no. I'm good.

But I never imagined I'd see...

...a black man be a real contender for the President of the United States.

Here we go.

It's that sweet corn. That corn look good.

Gloria and I would walk to our polling place every night to see where we'd be voting for Barack Obama.

We'd just... stare at it, smile.

You done? Pretty much.

Good. Time to go.

You done pretty good there.

Thanks, honey.

How come Louis' wife named that child...

...Shaquanda? Now, don't start that again.

I ain't starting it, I just don't know what kind of name that is.

I mean, really! Shaquanda?

I think she done that just to spite me.

Ain't nobody done nothing to spite you.

Yes, she did.

She a ugly little old girl, too. That little pug nose.

I hope she grow out of it. Now, you need to stop that.

You know that ain't right. Don't you think she look a little like Louis around the mouth?

I think... she look just like you.

Like me? Yeah, so you need to... need to stop talking about her.

Let me look at her again, then, real good.

She do look a little bit like me. She a pretty little thing.

I guess I can put up with the name Shaquanda.

I forgot where I put my Bible.

You know I need my Bible. Mm-hm.

I think I left it in the bathroom. Why is Louis late?

Boy gets elected to Congress...

...and he ain't been on time getting us to church ever since.

I can't believe you still... fussing. He gonna be late to his own funeral.

Are you still fussing about Louis?

He said he's gonna be here for us.

Go ahead, call him. I ain't calling Louis.

I'm gonna get my purse and...

What'd you say? Isaiah?

I see you got... your mark here.

I'm gonna fall all over myself.

Baby, you need... to move that to the other side.



You sleeping?


Are you all right?

...states will be closing, and there are some big ones, especially California, the largest state in the United States, with 55 electoral votes.

Hawaii, that's where Barack Obama was born. will be closing its polls.

Idaho, Oregon and Washington state, and those states have been going Democratic in presidential contests in recent years.

So in a few seconds those states will be closing their polls, and presumably we'll be able to see what's...


...a major projection at that point.

This is a moment that a lot of people have been waiting for...

Louis, come on down! Come down!

...could be rather historic.

And CNN can now project that Barack Obama, 47 years old, will become the President-Elect of the United States. We project...

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible...

...who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

You must look through their eyes...

...see what it is that they want...

...see what it is that they need...


...bring a smile to the principal's eyes.

Mr. Gaines.

I'm Admiral Rochon, the chief usher.

Nice to meet you, admiral. Pleasure's all mine, sir.

I just wanted to tell you what an honor it is to meet you, sir.

The honor is mine.

The president's so excited to meet with you.


...that's just fine, isn't it?

Let me show you the way.

I know the way.

The heart of the question is, whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities.

It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life.

We will respond with that timeless creed