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)