For Adam’s Sake: A Family Saga in Colonial New England

Allegra Di Bonaventura, Author
Allegra di Bonaventura. Norton/Liveright, $29.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-87140-430-5
Reviewed on: 02/11/2013
Release date: 04/01/2013
Open Ebook - 416 pages - 978-0-87140-347-6
Paperback - 441 pages - 978-0-87140-776-4
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When the subject of slavery arises, colonial New England rarely comes to mind, but di Bonaventura, the assistant dean at the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, shows in this gripping dual biography that the institution has a rich history in the region. Di Bonaventura details New London, Conn., shipwright Joshua Hempstead’s (1678–1758) apprenticeship and marriage, and the early years of his career as he set up shop and put down roots. The account draws from the shipwright’s near-daily diary entries. Meanwhile nearby, Adam Jackson grows up a slave under the Foxes, where in addition to working on the family farm six days a week, he is exposed to religious teachings and sobering reminders of the discrepancy between slaves and free men. After Hempstead’s wife dies, the patriarch is forced to work tirelessly to raise his children and maintain his household. But a break comes when his role as executor of the Fox estate allows him to purchase Jackson. Hempstead, whom townsfolk regard as a “fair and honest” man, portrays his new servant as hardworking and constant, and their relationship—as rendered in writing by the master’s own hand—sheds light on both men, their town, and their moment in history. But despite Hempstead’s respect for Jackson, di Bonaventura insists that the former’s diary is still primarily “a chronicle of Adam’s objectification.” 20 illus. Agent: Elyse Cheney, Elyse Cheney Literary Associates. (Apr.)
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