NMG member Jesse Holland pens book on White House slavery

It was 2008, and as Jesse Holland sat on the press of then-Sen. Barack Obama, he pondered the subject for his next book.jesshollandpic

Holland, an Associated Press reporter and News Media Guild member, knew many people would write about the first black person elected president if Obama won. But what could he write that covered different territory?

He started thinking about the African-Americans who worked in the White House and that led him to wonder if slaves had toiled at the home for America’s first family. And that’s when he came up with the idea for “The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African-American Slavery Inside the White House.”

“I was so excited I called my editor from the campaign bus and proposed the book right then,” said Holland, who covers race, ethnicity and demographics for the AP in Washington and is part of AP’s political team for the 2016 election.


Holland’s first book was “Black Men Built the Capitol: Discovering African American History In and Around Washington, D.C.” He started on his second book after returning to AP from a sabbatical, during which time he got a masters of fine arts from Goucher College.

The first half of “The Invisibles” is taken from his MFA thesis; by the time he finished the two-year program at Goucher, he had more than 250 pages written. jessehollandbook

Holland says it’s odd to answer questions from interviewers instead of asking them, and he sometimes gets questions he can’t answer. After all, not a lot of information is available about White House slaves.

“But I’m always careful to separate what I know from what I think because I never want to give out incorrect information if I can help it,” Holland says. “This may be the only time people think about the men and women who worked at the White House as slaves, and I want them to go away with the truth of the situation, or as close to it as I can get them.”

The Lyons Press imprint of Rowman & Littlefield published “The Invisibles,” which was released Jan. 1.

You can buy Holland’s book in your local bookstore or purchase it here.