How exactly does slavery fit into our nation’s history? Middle and high school students will have a much better understanding after reading In the Shadow of Liberty by Kenneth C. Davis, bestselling author of the Don’t Know Much About series.
After introductory chapters describe how slavery became part of the country’s economy, Davis provides detailed stories of the slaves of four presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Andrew Jackson. And what fascinating, ultimately tragic tales they are. Billy Lee was the valet who accompanied Washington across the Delaware and at Valley Forge, and he can be seen in the background of several famous paintings. Ona Judge was Martha Washington’s personal servant who ran away to New Hampshire. Isaac Granger was captured by the British as a young boy to become one of “Master Jefferson’s people” and was a witness to Cornwallis’ defeat at Yorktown. Paul Jennings was James Madison’s personal servant and later wrote what is considered to be the first White House memoir. Alfred Jackson, who died a free man, told tales to museum visitors of his life as Andrew Jackson’s slave.
Davis addresses head-on the irony that these presidential defenders of liberty and equality kept slaves. He backs up his discussion with a variety of photos, illustrations and helpful timelines. In the Shadow of Liberty provides an informative read about a subject that’s not always fully addressed in the classroom.