November 2011 Indie Next List
“This engaging middle grade book imagines the lives of Thomas Jefferson's children by his slave Sally Hemings. Although they occupied a position of privilege in the slave hierarchy at Monticello, Bradley makes it clear that they were still subject to sub-human treatment. As the children grew up, they confronted their mother with difficult questions, and she devised a plan for them to live in freedom.”
— Deborah Johnson, Barstons Child's Play, Washington, DC
What does it mean when the man who wrote
the Declaration of Independence is your father
and also your slave master?
Beverly, Harriet, Madison, and Eston are Thomas Jefferson's children, but their mother is a slave, so they must keep their father's identity secret. They get special treatment--better work, better shoes, even violin lessons--but they are still slaves. Their father has promised to set them all free when each turns twenty-one. Some of them are light-skinned enough that they will be able to enter white society--and thereby turn their backs on home forever. Others won't have that option. So just what did their father mean when he wrote all men are created equal?
Told in three parts from the points of view of three of Jefferson's slaves--Beverly, Madison, and a third boy close to the Hemings family--these engaging and poignant voices shed light on what life was like as one of Thomas Jefferson's invisible offspring.