Wednesday, February 15, 2017

In the Shadow of Liberty by Kenneth C. Davis - ESSENTIAL

Davis, Kenneth C. In the Shadow of Liberty : The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives. NON FICTION. Henry Holt and Company, 2016. $17.99.  Language: G(0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG. (references to the treatment of enslaved people) 

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Andrew Jackson; American presidents, but also owners of enslaved people, particularly the 5 individuals featured in this book. While millions left no records - no birth dates, death dates, even names, these 5 belonged to prominent men and were close to the families, so they experienced American history alongside these famous statesmen, and shared their stories.  But for Ona Judge, she would rather be free and live in poverty than be enslaved and serve Martha Washington. George Washington’s valet Billy Lee was the president’s constant companion for most of his life (and was the only slave emancipated at Washington’s death). 

These stories and several others show us the complicated lives and times of the people of our newly formed nation.   Some were captured in Africa, others born into enslavement, but they shared their stories.  Pictures of documents and artifacts complement the stories.  A piece of history that was never taught in school - but should have been. It is very evenly presented, telling the facts and history without passing judgement.  This was a fascinating, gripping read, well documented - including source notes, a bibliography, index and acknowledgements. 


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