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Jefferson's Sons

A Founding Father's Secret Children

Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Jefferson's Sons
A fictionalized look at the last twenty years of Thomas Jefferson's life at Monticello through the eyes of three of his slaves, two of whom were his sons by his slave, Sally Hemings.

Publisher: New York : Dial Books for Young Readers, 2011
ISBN: 9780803734999 (hardcover)
0803734999 (hardcover)
Branch Call Number: J BRADLEY
Characteristics: 360 p. ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

A fictionalized look at the last twenty years of Thomas Jefferson's life at Monticello through the eyes of three of his slaves, including two who were his sons by his slave, Sally Hemings. Ages 8-12

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May 02, 2014
  • PrairieStar rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This book gives you a good feel for what it must have been like to have been Jefferson's enslaved sons, 7/8 white, bearing his features, living at Monticello in the slave quarters and serving dinner to his guests.

Mar 29, 2012
  • ELIZABETH RAMSEY BIRD rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

If a good chunk of the American population has a hard time wrapping its head around the idea that the Founding Fathers owned slaves then how much harder would it be for an author of children’s literature to bring the point up? Kimberly Brubaker Bradley doesn’t just tackle the issue of someone like Thomas Jefferson owning slaves, though. She tackles the notion that he owned his own children as well. To pull this storyline off and to make it child appropriate, Bradley has a couple tricks up her sleeve. And danged if it doesn’t pay off in the end. To her I doff my cap.

Dec 07, 2011

"Jefferson's Sons" may be difficult reading for those who idealize the "Founding Fathers". I praise Bradley for dealing with the topic, but I think she doesn't go far enough. For starters, she never mentions Jefferson's racism - he believed Black people were inferior. He owned 700 Africans in the course of his lifetime and thought nothing of giving 10 or 12 year olds away as presents (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Jefferson ). Jefferson's rape of Sally Hemings, a child, is glossed over by Bradley. The fact that rape was common practice on the part of slave owners, as were the brutal beatings which Jefferson ordered, does not make it less of a crime. Writers of historical fiction have greater leeway, but not less responsibility, than historians. Though bloody whippings are seen through the eyes of Sally and her children, Bradley spares the reader any vision of the daily lives or inner feelings of the field hands who are taking the beatings - the uglier side of oppression which led to hundreds of slave rebellions, none of which are mentioned by the author. Such revolts would have been on the minds and tongues of whites and Africans: in 1800 there were 16,439 people living in Albermarle County, Virginia, the location of Jefferson's plantation. Of these, 7,436 were enslaved - that's an astounding 45 percent. In 1800 a rebellion was quashed in Virginia, and 26 slaves were hung. In stead, Bradley paints an at times almost wholesome picture of life in and around Monticello. Similarly, Bradley omits any mention of Native Americans who were victims of Jefferson's genocidal policies (and who often aided escaped slaves). Bradley chooses to write a scene in which one of Jefferson's sons day dreams about what it must be like to be Lewis or Clark, (who were sent out West as point men for Jefferson's expansionist plan). A better book for young readers is Howard Zinn's "A Young People's History of the United States"


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Mar 29, 2012
  • ELIZABETH RAMSEY BIRD rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

ELIZABETH RAMSEY BIRD thinks this title is suitable for 9 years and over

Feb 18, 2012
  • Velurian rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Velurian thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 10 and 99


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Mar 29, 2012
  • ELIZABETH RAMSEY BIRD rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Three residents of Monticello. Three boys with a connection to its owner, Thomas Jefferson. The first boy, Beverly, is the eldest son of Sally Hemings. He is also, as it happens, a son of Jefferson himself. Born with light-colored skin, Beverly comes to learn from his mother that when he turns twenty-one he is expected to leave Monticello, never see his family again, and go into the world as a white man. On this point he is conflicted (to say the least). After him comes Madison, or Maddy for short. Born with darker skin, Maddy will never be able to live as a white person like his siblings, and he fights with his anger at his father and at the system of slavery itself. Finally there is Peter, a young slave boy, who ends up suffering the most at the hands of Jefferson’s negligence. Through it all, these three boys help one another and attempt to come to terms with how a man can be considered great and yet participate in an institution of evil.


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Mar 29, 2012
  • ELIZABETH RAMSEY BIRD rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

“Would a great person sell someone else’s son?”


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