Jefferson's Sons: A Founding Father's Secret Children
Jefferson's Sons: A Founding Father's Secret Children

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Annotation: 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.
Catalog Number: #72138
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
Publisher: Penguin
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition Date: 2013
Pages: 360 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-14-242184-7 Perma-Bound: 0-605-72217-X
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-14-242184-0 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-72217-0
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2010049650
Dimensions: 20 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Don't you ever call him Papa. This gripping novel captures the viewpoints of the young children President Thomas Jefferson fathered with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings. Growing up in a cabin at Monticello, the children are told not to mention their father. The president is kind to Sally's oldest son, Beverly, and encourages him to play the violin. Jefferson promises the children they will be freed at 21. Beverly and his sister, Harriet, look white. Could they pass? But what about their brother, Maddy, who is dark-skinned? Could they leave him behind? The detailed history may overwhelm some readers. But told from the children's naive viewpoints, first Beverly's, then Maddy's, then that of little Peter, another young slave who is beloved by the Hemings family, the young innocents' elemental questions raise fundamental issues for the reader. How could founding father Jefferson sell off Maddy's best friend? What does it mean, all people are created equal?
Horn Book
William Beverly Hemings and his siblings are slaves; theyre also Thomas Jeffersons children. Granted freedom at twenty-one, light-skinned Beverly leaves Monticello with plans to pass for white. But cultural differences complicate every aspect of his new life. The voices of the Hemings children give readers a perspective not found in history textbooks. An informative authors note completes this eye-opening and powerful novel.
School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 6&11;9&12; This well-researched fictional look at the lives of the sons of Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings echoes with the horrors of slavery and the contradictions within the author of the Declaration of Independence and an admired champion of liberty. Bradley depicts Sally Hemings as a determined woman who accepts her role as a slave and secret lover of the president while she focuses on the promised freedom for her children. The story is told mainly by her three sons, Beverly, Madison, and Eston. Hemings never allows her children to forget that they are slaves while they live at Monticello and makes sure that they are aware of slavery's repulsiveness, despite their somewhat special status. She plans to have her light-skinned son Beverly and daughter Harriet go out in the world and "pass" as white people, but this will require that they never acknowledge her or their darker family members again. Eventually financial difficulties grow, and Jefferson is forced to sell many possessions, including 130 slaves. Maddy and Eston are given their freedom at the age of 21, but Sally Hemings was never set free. Bradley's fine characterization and cinematic prose breathe life into this tragic story.&12; Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
It was a secret everybody knew at Monticello: Thomas Jefferson was the father of Beverly, Harriet, Madison and Eston Hemings, and their mother was Sally Hemings, a slave owned by Jefferson. Most people now have a vague idea of this story and the issues it raises about Jefferson, the author of the words that founded a nation: "All men are created equal." Bradley offers the first fully realized novel for young readers and tells it from the points of view of Beverly, Madison and another enslaved boy on the plantation. The characters spring to life, and readers will be right there with Beverly when his mother scolds him for referring to Master Jefferson as "Papa." Readers may wonder why, when three-quarters through the novel, the point of view shifts from Beverly and Madison to Peter Fossett, a slave but not one of Jefferson's sons. But this additional perspective becomes crucial to the wrenching conclusion of this fascinating story of an American family that represents so many of the contradictions of our history. The afterword is as fascinating as the novel, telling what later happened to each of the characters, and a small but excellent bibliography will lead readers to books and websites for further study. A big, serious work of historical investigation and imagination; the tale has never before been told this well. (Historical fiction. 9-14) 
Bibliography Index/Note: Includes bibliographical references (page [364]).
Word Count: 81,452
Reading Level: 3.9
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 3.9 / points: 11.0 / quiz: 145768 / grade: Middle Grades+
Reading Counts!: reading level:4.4 / points:20.0 / quiz:Q54982
Lexile: 600L
Guided Reading Level: X

This story of Thomas Jefferson's children by one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, tells a darker piece of America's history from an often unseen perspective-that of three of Jefferson's slaves-including two of his own children. As each child grows up and tells his story, the contradiction between slavery and freedom becomes starker, calliing into question the real meaning of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." This poignant story sheds light on what life was like as one of Jefferson's invisible offspring.

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