Did you know that many of America’s Founding Fathers—who fought for liberty and justice for all—were slave owners?
Through the powerful stories of five enslaved people who were “owned” by four of our greatest presidents, this book helps set the record straight about the role slavery played in the founding of America. From Billy Lee, valet to George Washington, to Alfred Jackson, faithful servant of Andrew Jackson, these dramatic narratives explore our country’s great tragedy—that a nation “conceived in liberty” was also born in shackles.
These stories help us know the real people who were essential to the birth of this nation but traditionally have been left out of the history books. Their stories are true—and they should be heard.
This thoroughly-researched and documented book can be worked into multiple aspects of the common core curriculum.
This powerful examination of five enslaved individuals and their presidential owners Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Jackson delves into these closely interwoven relationships while offering a broader look at America's history with slavery. Although Davis (the Don't Know Much About series) discusses familiar figures such as Sally Hemings and Frederick Douglass, his focus on a few little-known figures including Billy Lee, Washington's longtime valet, and Paul Jennings, who served James Madison during the War of 1812 delivers an eye-opening vision of "stubborn facts" in American history that are often "swept under the carpet," as Davis notes in his introduction. At the heart of this chronicle is what Davis calls "America's great contradiction," the glaring dichotomy between the presidents' espoused beliefs in equality and their financial, domestic, and even emotional dependency on the individuals they owned. In a thoroughly researched and reasoned account, Davis exposes the intricacies of this impossibly tangled web ("Moral issues aside, the practical problem remained. Even wealthy, powerful men like Madison, Washington, and Jefferson who were considering emancipation couldn't do so without losing their fortunes"), supplemented by timelines, photographs, and other archival materials. Ages 10 14.
This is like reading every thing that’s been edited out of books on the founding fathers. Easy to follow and generously researched.