Wil Haygood Biography

Acclaimed Washington Post reporter Wil Haygood had an early hunch that Obama would win the 2008 election and when he did he wanted to publish an article about a black person who had worked in the White House as a servant, someone who had come of age when segregation was so widespread, so embedded in the culture as to make the very thought of a black president inconceivable. He struck gold when he tracked down Eugene Allen, a butler who had served no less than eight presidents, from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan—and in so doing became a “discreet stage hand who for three decades helped keep the show running in the most important political theatre of all.” The result was The Butler: A Witness to History, a portrait of Eugene Allen’s lifelong journey, from his birth in 1919 on a southern plantation to his years in service at the White House; it is also a broader examination of the history of African Americans in film. The book, which quickly became a bestseller, was released in tandem with the award-winning motion picture The Butler—of which Haygood is associate producer—starring Oprah Winfrey, Forest Whitaker, Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, and Cuba Gooding Jr. Among the film's many honors include becoming a top selling disc on the Nielsen VideoScan First Alert chart and receiving two NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture (Forest Whitaker) and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture (David Oyelowo).

Many prominent people responded to the powerful message produced from the feature film, including President Obama, who was quoted as saying, “"I teared up thinking about not just the butlers who worked here in the White House, but an entire generation of people...I thought Forest Whitaker was wonderful and Oprah is a wonderful actress,” and President Jimmy Carter, who described the film as, "...One of the best dramatizations of the civil rights movement I have seen."

Raised in a poor family and the first of his family to attend college, Haygood went on to become the author of five nonfiction books, including a trilogy of biographies of iconic 20th-century figures hailed as “culturally important” by The Los Angeles Times: King of the Cats: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell Jr., a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis Jr., a multiple award winner; and Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson, named a Best Book of the Year by Forbes, The Chicago Tribune, Parade, and Mosaic. His other books are Two on the River—about a 2,500-mile journey down the Mississippi River—and The Haygoods of Columbus: A Family Memoir.

Haygood's journalism career has been equally notable. For 17 years he was a national and foreign correspondent for The Boston Globe, where he became a Pulitzer Prize finalist. In 1990 while covering the civil war in Somalia he was taken hostage by rebels and eventually released with the aid of Pakistani troops. On another foreign assignment, he found himself standing outside the South African prison when freedom fighter Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years of imprisonment.

In 2002 Haygood joined The Washington Post as a national writer. He was one of the first journalists to make it into New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck, a story which he covered for 33 straight days without a break. In 2008, he traveled with Barack Obama. His long career as a reporter covering both national and global affairs makes him an authority on addressing these issues in keynote speeches.

Wil Haygood has been a Yaddo Guest Artist, an Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellow, and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow. He has been a visiting writer at the University of Georgia, Ohio State University, and Colorado College.

In 2013 Wil Haygood was honored with the prestigious Ella Baker Award, named after the civil rights pioneer. The judges cited Haygood's literary career "for shedding a light on those who give much, but are little noticed." He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters by Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship in 2013.

Contact a speaker booking agent to check availability on Wil Haygood and other top speakers and celebrities.

How to book Wil Haygood?

Our booking agents have successfully helped clients around the world secure talent like Wil Haygood for speaking engagements, personal appearances, product endorsements, or corporate entertainment for over 15 years. The team at All American Entertainment represents and listens to the needs of organizations and corporations seeking to hire keynote speakers, celebrities or entertainers. Fill out a booking request form for Wil Haygood, or call our office at 1.800.698.2536 to discuss your upcoming event. One of our experienced agents will be happy to help you get pricing information and check availability for Wil Haygood or any other celebrity of your choice.

How much does it cost to book Wil Haygood?

Booking fees for Wil Haygood, or any other speakers and celebrities, are determined based on a number of factors and may change without notice. Pricing often varies according to the circumstances, including the talent's schedule, market conditions, length of presentation, and the location of the event. Speaker fees listed on this website are intended to serve as a guideline only. In some cases, the actual quote may be above or below the stated range. For the most current fee to hire Wil Haygood, please fill out the booking request form or call our office at 1.800.698.2536 to speak with an experienced booking agent.

Who is the agent for Wil Haygood?

All American Entertainment has successfully secured celebrity talent like Wil Haygood for clients worldwide for more than 15 years. As a full-service talent booking agency, we have access to virtually any speaker or celebrity in the world. Our agents are happy and able to submit an offer to the speaker or celebrity of your choice, letting you benefit from our reputation and long-standing relationships in the industry. Fill out the booking request form or call our office at 1.800.698.2536, and one of our agents will assist you to book Wil Haygood for your next private or corporate function.

What is a full-service talent booking agency?

All American Speakers is a "buyers agent" and exclusively represents talent buyers, meeting planners and event professionals, who are looking to secure celebrities and speakers for personal appearances, speaking engagements, corporate entertainment, public relations campaigns, commercials, or endorsements. We do not exclusively represent Wil Haygood or claim ourselves as the exclusive booking agency, business manager, publicist, speakers bureau or management for Wil Haygood or any other speaker or celebrity on this website. For more information on how we work and what makes us unique, please read the AAE Advantage.


Wil Haygood is a keynote speaker and industry expert who speaks on a wide range of topics including Diversity, Inspirational and Civil Rights. The estimated speaking fee range to book Wil Haygood for live events is $10,000 - $20,000. Please contact us for virtual event fees. Wil Haygood generally travels from Washington, DC, USA and can be booked for (private) corporate events, personal appearances, keynote speeches, or other performances. Similar motivational celebrity speakers are Juan Williams, Sonia Nazario and Van Jones. Contact All American Speakers for ratings, reviews, videos and information on scheduling Wil Haygood for an upcoming event.

Wil Haygood Speaking Topics

  • A Writer's Travels Around the World

    From the oil crisis in Nigeria to the war-torn lands of Somalia and Liberia, from the richness of obtaining a South African education, to the heroism of Esther in Zimbabwe - an AIDS-afflicted woman who cared for 10 nieces and nephews and received an outpouring of international help because of Wil Haygood's reporting- this is an evening of scintillating and inspiring stories from around the world. Haygood's journeys as a globe-trotting foreign correspondent (he was once taken hostage in Somalia by rebels) will enthrall you.

  • The Beauty of the Presidency

    In this fascinating presentation, Wil Haygood shares with audiences how American presidents have confronted the country's social issues. He draws on his many visits to presidential libraries in over his years as a biographer- and his dozens of interviews of former White House officials across many administrations - in offering insights into presidential politics.

  • A Writer's Stories

    The figures that journalist Wil Haygood has interacted with and written about make up a scintillating Who's Who of our times: James Brown, Nelson Mandela, Andy Warhol, Sally Field, Morgan Freeman, Jerry Lewis, Harry Belafonte, James Baldwin, Eartha Kitt, and Frank Sinatra Jr.

  • My Trilogy: The Importance of Sammy, Adam & Sugar Ray

    In telling the epic story of America, Wil Haygood has produced a biographical trilogy of these three mid-20th-century figures in books that garnered worldwide literary acclaim and prestigious honors: a politician, an entertainer, and a sports champion. It makes for a fascinating evening of American history.

  • History, Race & Culture of the US

    Wil Haygood has been called one of America's "canniest cultural historians." As journalist and biographer, he has explored the social and historical dynamics of this country as few modern chroniclers have done in books, magazine articles, and award-winning newspaper coverage. It is little wonder that Bostonian magazine once referred to him as a "Young Literary Lion."

How to book Wil Haygood?

Our booking agents have successfully helped clients around the world secure talent like Wil Haygood for speaking engagements, personal appearances, product endorsements, or corporate entertainment for over 15 years. The team at All American Entertainment represents and listens to the needs of organizations and corporations seeking to hire keynote speakers, celebrities or entertainers. Fill out a booking request form for Wil Haygood, or call our office at 1.800.698.2536 to discuss your upcoming event. One of our experienced agents will be happy to help you get pricing information and check availability for Wil Haygood or any other celebrity of your choice.

How much does it cost to book Wil Haygood?

Booking fees for Wil Haygood, or any other speakers and celebrities, are determined based on a number of factors and may change without notice. Pricing often varies according to the circumstances, including the talent's schedule, market conditions, length of presentation, and the location of the event. Speaker fees listed on this website are intended to serve as a guideline only. In some cases, the actual quote may be above or below the stated range. For the most current fee to hire Wil Haygood, please fill out the booking request form or call our office at 1.800.698.2536 to speak with an experienced booking agent.

Who is the agent for Wil Haygood?

All American Entertainment has successfully secured celebrity talent like Wil Haygood for clients worldwide for more than 15 years. As a full-service talent booking agency, we have access to virtually any speaker or celebrity in the world. Our agents are happy and able to submit an offer to the speaker or celebrity of your choice, letting you benefit from our reputation and long-standing relationships in the industry. Fill out the booking request form or call our office at 1.800.698.2536, and one of our agents will assist you to book Wil Haygood for your next private or corporate function.

What is a full-service talent booking agency?

All American Speakers is a "buyers agent" and exclusively represents talent buyers, meeting planners and event professionals, who are looking to secure celebrities and speakers for personal appearances, speaking engagements, corporate entertainment, public relations campaigns, commercials, or endorsements. We do not exclusively represent Wil Haygood or claim ourselves as the exclusive booking agency, business manager, publicist, speakers bureau or management for Wil Haygood or any other speaker or celebrity on this website. For more information on how we work and what makes us unique, please read the AAE Advantage.


Wil Haygood is a keynote speaker and industry expert who speaks on a wide range of topics including Diversity, Inspirational and Civil Rights. The estimated speaking fee range to book Wil Haygood for live events is $10,000 - $20,000. Please contact us for virtual event fees. Wil Haygood generally travels from Washington, DC, USA and can be booked for (private) corporate events, personal appearances, keynote speeches, or other performances. Similar motivational celebrity speakers are Juan Williams, Sonia Nazario and Van Jones. Contact All American Speakers for ratings, reviews, videos and information on scheduling Wil Haygood for an upcoming event.

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