Cover image for In the shadow of liberty : the hidden history of slavery, four presidents, and five Black lives
Title:
In the shadow of liberty : the hidden history of slavery, four presidents, and five Black lives
ISBN:
9781101891728

9781101891742
Edition:
Unabridged.
Physical Description:
5 audio discs (5 1/2 hr.) : CD audio, digital ; 4 3/4 in.
General Note:
Title from container.

Compact disc.
Contents:
Introduction: Out of the shadows -- "The loudest yelps for liberty" -- Slavery in America time line: 1492-1700 -- Stolen from Africa -- Slavery in America time line: 1705-1776 -- "My mulatto man William" : the story of Billy Lee -- Slavery in America time line: 1777-1800 -- "Absconded from the household of the President" : the story of Ona Judge -- Slavery in America time line: 1801-1816 -- "Mr. Jefferson's people" : the story of Isaac Granger -- Slavery in America time line: 1817-1828 -- White House, black man : the story of Paul Jennings -- Slavery in America time line: 1829-1838 -- "How would you like to be a slave?" : the story of Alfred Jackson -- Slavery in America time line: 1839-1850 -- Afterword: "That all may be free."
Genre:
Summary:
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.
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Summary

Summary

2017 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction finalist

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.

Read by Ken Davis, with Frankie Faison, Keith David, JD Jackson, Adenrele Ojo, Adam Lazarre-White, Dion Graham, and Mark Bramhall


Author Notes

Kenneth C. Davis is an American popular historian, best known for his Don't Know Much About... series. Born in Mount Vernon, New York, Davis attended Concordia College, Bronxville in New York, and Fordham University at Lincoln Center, New York City. Davis's second book, Don't Know Much About History, spent 35 consecutive weeks on The New York Times bestseller list and sold nearly 1.5 million copies. This unexpected success launched the Don't Know Much About... series.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 6

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. Agent: David Black, David Black Literary. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Horn Book Review

Best known for his Dont Know Much About History titles, Davis here presents another view of the American past, bringing to light the stories of five enslaved individuals who were considered the property of four well-known presidents. After a succinct overview of African chattel slavery in the United States, Davis moves into chapters featuring Billy Lee and Ona Judge, enslaved members of George Washingtons household. Adroitly weaving what is known of Lee (Washingtons lifelong manservant) and Judge (Martha Washingtons chambermaid, whose successful escape infuriated the countrys first leader) into more commonly known history, Davis gives them voice while also painting a nuanced portrait of Washington. Moving on to the even more complex Thomas Jefferson, we learn not just of Sally Hemings but of Isaac Granger, too, another of Mr. Jeffersons people. Davis concludes with accounts of Paul Jennings, an enslaved servant of the Madisons, and Alfred, who spent his life toiling for Andrew Jackson. Along the way, Davis raises provocative questions. Are statements giving a positive impression of a slave master sincere or made under duress, to avoid punishment? What are we to make of slavery-advocate Jackson paying Alfreds hefty legal fees when he was on trial for murder? Timelines, overviews of significant political moments, and primary-source images provide further context. Daviss solid research (there are source notes and bibliographies for each chapter), accessible prose, and determination to make these stories known give young readers an important alternative to textbook representations of colonial life. Index unseen. monica edinger (c) Copyright 2016. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* This well-researched book offers a chronological history of slavery in America and features five enslaved people and the four U.S. presidents who owned them. George Washington's trusted valet, Billy Lee, served at his side throughout the Revolutionary War and was freed at his death. Martha Washington's personal maid and seamstress, Ona Judge, escaped and fled to New Hampshire. Born into slavery at Jefferson's Monticello, Isaac Granger recalled life there in an oral account that was later published. Similarly, Paul Jennings' reminiscences provide insights into his life with the Madisons in the White House and at Montpelier. Alfred Jackson lived in slavery at Andrew Jackson's Hermitage. Always referring to enslaved people rather than slaves, Davis organizes a great deal of factual material, personal accounts, and quotes into a very readable history book. Ties to familiar historical figures give the information about the five lesser-known African Americans a greater sense of context. In turn, the book offers a particularly realistic and nuanced view of these presidents. The illustrations include black-and-white reproductions of paintings, prints, and photos of artifacts and historic sites. A valuable, broad perspective on slavery, paired with close-up views of individuals who benefited from it and those who endured it.--Phelan, Carolyn Copyright 2016 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

IN AN ADDRESS this year, the first lady, Michelle Obama, reminded us that enslaved men and women built the White House. Her speech preceded by two months the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Its plentiful exhibits include relics and artifacts that summon the era of whips and shackles with chilling persuasiveness. Meanwhile, news articles have spotlighted Georgetown University's efforts to atone for its sale of 272 human beings to save the school in 1838. On other campuses, debates revolve around the impropriety of allowing buildings to be named in honor of unapologetic racists who defended slavery. All of which indicates the extent to which our country still grapples with one of its cardinal sins. Small wonder, perhaps, that children's books appearing to emphasize sweetness and sunny smiles at the expense of slavery's horrors have recently met with condemnation. In sharp contrast, three new books have in common a complete refusal to treat the peculiar institution with kid gloves. In "Freedom Over Me," Ashley Bryan sugarcoats nothing, frequently invoking the language of commerce to expose the brutality of human trafficking. Words like "earnings," "profits" and "income" fall easily from his characters' mouths. He based his story on an 1828 document listing 11 people for sale along with cows, hogs and cotton. They each receive a moment in the spotlight in Bryan's free-verse telling. While hardly strangers to sweating in the fields, these 11 souls are also potters, weavers, metalworkers, basket makers and herbalists whose talents fatten the purse of their owner. The monetary value of their toil seldom escapes their notice, which may explain why, unlike other enslaved characters in recent children's books, they are unconcerned with baking birthday cakes or fine desserts. "All we've known as slaves is work," a woman named Athelia says. "Work, from dawn to dusk, in rain, cold, stifling heat." Another woman, Jane, recalls seeing her parents killed when slavers raided her village, after which she ended up "naked, sold on the auction block." Eight of the 11 recall their childhoods in Africa. They remember their parents and original names, bits and pieces of language, and fragments of customs. Most of these recollections provide comfort while steeling them against the demoralizing oppression they must regularly confront. Throughout, Bryan effectively counters the outside world's assessment of these individuals as property or lower primates by sharing the dreams, fears and affections that come with being human. His portraits of them are vibrant and busy, often placed in celebratory settings amid visions of a free and promising future. The accompanying text reveals that they fight back against their confinement by singing, loving and secretly teaching one another to read. They gather in cabins, Jane says, "whispering stories of slave resistance and runaways. We sing our slave songs loud to cover our talk." Because the document that inspired his project lists few details, Bryan created an age and a work assignment for each of his characters. He explains in an afterword that he began by painting them from his imagination, then studied their faces and started "listening for their voices." The most haunting of those comes from Bacus, a proud and angry blacksmith. Discussing his love for his wife and daughter, he punctuates his monologue with six devastating words: "Now we are up for sale." THE TITLE CHARACTER in Jonah Winter's affecting new book, "My Name Is James Madison Hemings," struggles to assert his presence and his humanity on every page. "Each enslaved person has a name, a mother, and a father," he says early on, "and a mind, a heart, and a story." His mother, Sally, was enslaved by Thomas Jefferson and, most historians now believe, bore six of his children. Winter peeks into the life of Hemings and Jefferson through the eyes of Madison, as he is known. Lanky, redheaded and introspective, Madison is both intrigued and wounded when he learns of his origins. "Many days I sat outside on the grand lawn, staring at the beautiful mansion of this man. How could I be both his slave and his son?" Madison and his siblings occupy a strange space at Monticello, exempt from the rigor of fieldwork but denied the affection of their father. And then there is the cold fact of Jefferson's Farm Book, where Madison's name is listed with his siblings', "alongside the names of all the people he owned, right among the pages listing sheep and hogs." Madison's dilemma was shared by untold numbers of children in the antebellum era, fathered by men who itemized their off-spring in the same ledgers that tallied their livestock. In Winter's plain-spoken but unrelenting prose, we feel the children's anguish like a throbbing pain for which there is no easy remedy. "One night, as Mother cooked us dinner," Madison says, "I asked her to explain: How could a father enslave his own flesh and blood? My mother had no answer." We seldom get a complete view of Jefferson during Madison's ponderings, forced to glimpse his back or spy on him from behind a doorway much as Madison did, like a curious, wistful boy shunted to the margins. Terry Widener renders the scenes in muted earth colors and soft outlines, appropriately matching the somber tone of the narration. Even when freed after Jefferson's death, Madison wears a sober expression, as if he is utterly unaccustomed to expressing happiness. Readers averse to smiling countenances in books about the enslaved will have nothing to fear in "My Name Is James Madison Hemings." In fact, they will be hard-pressed to find a single one. WHEREAS THE 11 people brought to life by Ashley Bryan were held in bondage by a little-known slaveholder, the five individuals profiled in "In the Shadow of Liberty" were all the "property" of American presidents. Kenneth C. Davis's five subjects are Billy Lee, Ona Judge, Isaac Granger, Paul Jennings and Alfred Jackson. Of these, Lee and Judge are perhaps best known. Lee, George Washington's longtime valet, is believed to appear in more than one classic portrait of the first president. He had many opportunities to escape but never did, serving Washington through war and peace. When Washington died in 1799, his will granted Lee immediate freedom. Judge, another of Washington's enslaved, took freedom into her own hands. Davis retells her escape as a story of daring on her part and fury on the part of Washington. Angry at Ona's "ingratitude," Washington made a concerted effort to have her caught and returned, pursuing her until his death. Should young readers be exposed to harsh historical facts? It's clear where Davis stands on that question. In a book ostensibly aimed at 8- to 12-year-olds, he wastes no time telling readers that women were "sexual slaves whose children were slaves." Similarly, slaveholders' methods included "beatings, rape and murder." His account of torture onboard slave ships is nothing short of hair-raising. But it's also true. Accordingly, one can't accuse Davis of sensationalizing. As he makes clear in example after example, the facts speak for themselves - sometimes in gruesome fashion. Similarly, Davis never shies away from the grotesque paradox of our nation's most eloquent proponents of liberty denying that precious right to so many of their countrymen. Still, his primary mission is to illuminate the interior lives of the men and women forced into lives of ceaseless labor. Like Ashley Bryan, he is most interested in the souls of black folk, what W.E.B. Du Bois called "the rich and bitter depth of their experience, the unknown treasures of their inner life." JABARI ASIM is director of the M.F.A. program in creative writing at Emerson College. His newest book for children is "Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis," illustrated by E. B. Lewis.


School Library Journal Review

Gr 6 Up-Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Jackson were all slave owners, as were most of the Founding Fathers. Slavery is at the heart of our country's history, and Davis (Don't Know Much About History) addresses this sad fact. His fascinating and informative narrative tells the stories of Billy Lee, Ona Judge, Isaac Granger, Paul Jennings, and Alfred Jackson-all of whom were enslaved by and served presidents. These individuals were witnesses to great events, and most stayed with the owners throughout their lives; however, their stories are seldom told in history books. Davis presents a powerful telling of American history-with no sugarcoating or heartwarming myths. The audiobook is narrated by various individuals, including the author. The text includes biographical information about each president and his life and time in office. Time lines of slavery in U.S. history are outstanding. Together, these features make the recording useful to classroom teachers, who could play chapters related to textbook discussions. VERDICT A first-rate addition for all libraries. Americans of all ages can benefit from Davis's history lesson. ["Compulsively readable. This is a must-have selection for any library collection to present alternative takes on history": SLJ 8/16 review of the Holt book.]-Patricia Ann Owens, formerly at Illinois Eastern Community Colleges, Mount Carmel, IL © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Library Journal Review

Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Jackson were all slave owners, as were most of the Founding Fathers. Slavery is at the heart of our country's history, and Davis (Don't Know Much About History) addresses this sad fact. His fascinating and informative narrative tells the stories of Billy Lee, Ona Judge, Isaac Granger, Paul Jennings, and Alfred Jackson-all of whom were enslaved by and served presidents. These individuals were witness to great events and most stayed with their owners throughout their lives; however, their stories are seldom told in history books. Davis presents a powerful telling of American history-with no sugar-coating or heartwarming myths. The audiobook is narrated by various individuals, including the author. The text includes biographical information about each president, in and out of office. Time lines of slavery in U.S. history are outstanding. Together, these features make the recording useful to classroom teachers who could play chapters related to textbook discussions. VERDICT A first-rate addition for all libraries. Americans of all ages can benefit from Davis's history lesson. ["Compulsively readable.... a must-have selection for any library collection to present alternative takes on history": School Library Journal 8/16 review of the Holt hc.]-Patricia Ann Owens, formerly with Illinois Eastern Community Colls., Mt. Carmel © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.