One of this year's finalists for the YALSA Nonfiction Award, In the Shadow of Liberty tells the stories of five African-Americans who were enslaved by four of the country's founding fathers. We learn about Billy Lee, Washington's right hand man on and off the battlefield, and Isaac Granger, enslaved to Thomas Jefferson after he wrote a law ending slave trading to America. Davis talks about the full scope of the labor that these five people were expected to do, the way that they were treated, and most especially, the roles that they played in the major accomplishments of their owners.
Why It's Worth Reading:
We spend a great deal of time learning about the Founding Fathers and the way that they helped develop the country and institute democracy, but like all famous figures, these men did not work alone. There were many people, including hundreds of enslaved people, who fought in the wars, managed the meetings, and even built the White House! Billy Lee went everywhere with George Washington, fought alongside him, and carried his most precious items and documents. He is one of the most famous enslaved people in U.S. History, yet no one knows when he died or where he is buried, and he never even knew his own birthday. The thing that stands out to me most about this book is a great historical paradox - Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Jackson were all deeply involved in battles related to rights and liberties, but each of them failed to consider that enslaving others was a direct contradiction to spirit of their fights for freedom. This book will make you think about American History in a completely new way.
Title: In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives
Author: Kenneth C. Davis
Reading Level: AR = 8.2
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
Publication Date: September 20, 2016
Awards/Accolades: 2017 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults finalist and at least 3 starred reviews
Do We Own a Copy?: Oh yeah.