The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

In the early 1960s, Irving Wallace began writing his novel The Man, which placed a black man as the
President of the United States long before former President Obama even imagined
himself in politics. The novel sold exceedingly well staying at the number one
spot on the New York Times bestseller
list for months on end.

Many interested parties, including Sammy Davis Jr.,
considered purchasing film rights to the novel. Ultimately Paramount Pictures
made the motion picture starring James Earl Jones as “The Man” and several
other stellar actors as his supporting cast.

theman.jpg

How did Irving Wallace manage a convincing presidential
character as his main protagonist? Well, nine weeks before John F. Kennedy was
assassinated, Wallace was able to spend time in the White House working with
Kennedy in order to research his novel. JFK was a major influence on Wallace
while writing the novel, but so were other figures in history. The cover page
Wallace wrote to one of his early manuscript drafts includes the following
epithet:

 One of the author’s prized possessions is an
original autographed manuscript, written firmly with pen on cheap ruled paper,
signed by a former Negro slave who became a great reformer, lecturer, writer,
adviser to Abraham Lincoln, United States Minister to Haiti, and candidate for
Vice-President of the United States on the Equal Rights Party in 1872. The
manuscript reads as follows:

“In a composite Nation like ours,
made up of almost every variety of the human family, there should be, as before
the Law, no rich, no poor, no high, no low, no black, no white, but one country,
one citizenship, equal rights and a common destiny for all.

“A Government that cannot or does
not protect the humblest citizen in his right to life, Liberty and the pursuit
of happiness, should be reformed or overthrown, without delay.

Frederick
Douglass

“Washington D.C. Oct. 20. 1883”

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