In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives

Kenneth C. Davis. Holt, $17.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-62779-311-7
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.)
Reviewed on: 09/12/2016
Release date: 09/20/2016
Genre: Children's
Ebook - 978-1-62779-312-4
Compact Disc - 978-1-101-89172-8
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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