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In the Shadow of Liberty

Cover of In the Shadow of Liberty

In the Shadow of Liberty

The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives

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.

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.

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  • ATOS:
    8.2
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    MG
  • Text Difficulty:
    7

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About the Author-
  • Kenneth C. Davis is the New York Times bestselling author of America's Hidden History and Don't Know Much About® History, which gave rise to the Don't Know Much About® series of books for adults and children. A frequent guest on national television and radio and a Ted-Ed Educator, Davis enjoys Skype visits with middle- and high-school classrooms to discuss history. He lives in New York City and can be found at dontknowmuch.com.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from September 12, 2016
    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.

  • Kirkus

    June 15, 2016
    Known for his Don't Know Much About... series, Davis here focuses on the lives of five individuals who were enslaved to some of the most important proponents of American liberty; "Only then can we really understand and possibly move past the stain of a racist past that still haunts America." Davis begins by discussing the inherent contradictions of the founders' fight for liberty, then turns to his subjects. Billy Lee was purchased by George Washington as a teenager and served as his manservant until Washington took office. Ona Judge, a maid to Martha Washington, escaped while Washington was president. Isaac Granger spent a significant portion of his days at Monticello, the property of Thomas Jefferson. Paul Jennings, enslaved by President James Madison, was part of the White House staff that fled Washington, D.C., during the War of 1812. And Alfred Jackson was enslaved to President Andrew Jackson and remained at the Hermitage, telling stories about the man who had owned him until the end of his life. The premise of this work is unique, and Davis has a very readable storytelling style. In addition to the selected individual stories, he provides historical context, including information about other enslaved people connected to the four presidents. An important and timely corrective. (timelines, source notes, bibliography, index). (Nonfiction. 10-14)

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from August 1, 2016

    Gr 6 Up-Many are familiar with the lives of the Founding Fathers-their legacies are woven into the very fabric of our nation. Yet Davis peels back the layers of early U.S. history to provide readers with an aspect of the American story that is often ignored. Drawing on a wealth of primary sources, images, statistics, and personal accounts, this work gives readers a more complete picture of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Jackson through profiles of the enslaved people they owned. This volume does not shy away from the horrific reality of this portion of U.S. history, nor does it suggest readers should abandon all nostalgic notions of the Founding Fathers. Instead, Davis encourages middle schoolers and older students to use this work as an additional lens to better comprehend the time period and contribute to an improved understanding of current racial tensions. Davis does not disappoint with this title. Compulsively readable, this book follows the narratives of Billy Lee, Ona Judge, Isaac Granger, Paul Jennings, and Alfred Jackson, enhanced with historical context and insight. A time line before each chapter grounds readers in the history without overwhelming them with information. Images serve to complement the text effectively, and an index will make this text useful for research. While this entry is satisfying in its entirety, teachers can easily incorporate sections of the text into the curriculum or have students read different portions. VERDICT This is a must-have selection for any library collection to present alternative takes on history.-Paige Rowse, Needham High School, MA

    Copyright 2016 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Joy Hakim, author of A History of US (Oxford University Press) "The young woman was enslaved, but also privileged. She was part of the household of the nation's first president. This powerful book tells her story, and others, which are surprising and have been unknown to most of us. They will give you insights into our American heritage that you may not have considered before. I hope In the Shadow of Liberty will be widely read. It is important and timely."
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    Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
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  • Copyright Protection (DRM) required by the Publisher may be applied to this title to limit or prohibit printing or copying. File sharing or redistribution is prohibited. Your rights to access this material expire at the end of the lending period. Please see Important Notice about Copyrighted Materials for terms applicable to this content.

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In the Shadow of Liberty
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The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives
Kenneth C. Davis
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