The Butler is a comprehensive collection and overview of the condition of our nation before, during and after the Civil Rights Movement. A young boy witnesses the murder of his father on a cotton plantation. Then he is taken in by the murderer's grandmother and learns how to become a house servant. She also gives him a book and he learns how to read. When he is a teenager, she tells him to leave the plantation and get away to save his life.
One night on his journey, he walks past a hotel pastry shop and out of hunger, he breaks the window. He is sitting in there eating a cake when the man in charge finds him, bandages his hand and ends up hiring him as a maître d'. He begins to be noticed and requested by important people until he reaches Washington DC and ultimately becomes part of the White House staff, where his character is played by Forest Whitaker.
He serves under 6 Presidents starting with Dwight D Eisenhower, and acquires a certain amount of knowledge regarding the White House and the people who come and go. He is content with and devoted to his job, so much so that his wife, played by Oprah, almost leaves him.
Most of the stress of the movie is a result of his son, played by David Oyelowo, who goes back down South to attend a University in Tennessee, where he becomes embroiled in the Civil Rights Movement, on several occasions, almost to the exclusion of his life.
While Forest Whitaker’s character struggles to deal with racial injustice at the White House, including but not limited to his paycheck; he hates that his son has gone back to where he started, to be at the mercy of foes such as the Ku Klux Klan.
The wonder of the movie occurs when Barack Obama becomes President and the father has an occasion to see the bigger picture and comes to the realization that his son’s heroics were not all in vain.
This is a story of triumph, not only for African Americans, but for every American who still believes in “equality for all”.