This book traces the stories of the enslaved Africans who were owned by four of our founding fathers – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Andrew Jackson. I really enjoyed the stories in this book. Davis brings humanity to the people who surrounded our founding fathers. He includes fantastic details within those stories that really remove the barriers surrounding those men. Did you know that Dolly Madison didn’t really save George Washington’s painting (which was a replica anyway)? A White House slave named Paul Jennings is that forgotten hero of that story. He would go on to be a co-conspirator in an attempted slave rebellion in the nation’s capital.
There are dozens of stories like this in Davis’s book. They really caused me to reframe my understanding of the United States at that moment in history. Each story could be combined with any general discussion of the founding fathers.
From the publisher,
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 middle-grade nonfiction 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, personal manservant and lifelong slave 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 US history books. Their stories are true―and they should be heard.
This thoroughly-researched and documented book by Kenneth C. Davis can be worked into multiple aspects of the Common Core curriculum. It is a great resource for young students of United States history.