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*Starred Review* In the long-awaited sequel to Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (1997), Gordon-Reed delivers a powerful composite portrait of the African American family whose labors helped make Jefferson's Virginia residence a fountainhead of American culture. Primary interest naturally attaches to Sally Hemings, the gifted black woman who chose at age 16 to live as Jefferson's enslaved mistress in America rather than as a free woman in France. But Gordon-Reed highlights the family role of Sally's mother, Elizabeth Hemings, whose experience in bearing children to both black and white fathers schooled her in the racial dynamics of early America. Biracial relationships immensely complicated life at Monticello, where the Virginia planter famous for declaring the equality of all men counted among his slaves four of his own children, fathered in a union he never publicly acknowledged. Gordon-Reed teases out telling clues from correspondence and journals of the Hemingses' struggle for dignity despite the cruel constraints of slavery. That Jefferson finally freed his children by Sally does not obscure those restraints, nor does it hide the tragedy visited upon other Monticello slaves when Jefferson's posthumous debts licensed the auctioneer to break up black families to increase their market value. A must-have acquisition for every American history collection.--Christensen, Bryce Copyright 2008 Booklist


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

The story not just of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings but of Hemings's entire family from the 1700s; with a ten-city tour. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

This multigenerational saga traces mixed-race bloodlines that American history has long refused fully to acknowledge. Blending biography, genealogy, and history, Gordon-Reed (history, Rutgers Univ.; law, New York Law Sch.; Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy) brings to life the family from which Sally Hemings (1773-1835) came and the family that she and Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) created. Sally bore five surviving children for the man who penned the Declaration of Independence and later became the new nation's third president. In a three-part, 30-chapter tour de force through voluminous primary and secondary sources, including Jefferson family correspondence, Gordon-Reed reconstructs not simply the private life and estate of an American demigod but reveals much of the characteristic structure and style of early Virginia society and the slavery that made possible much of the Old Dominion's position and pleasure. Moreover, she ushers forth slaves from the usual shadows of historical obscurity to show them as individuals and families with multifaceted lives. This is a masterpiece brimming with decades of dedicated research and dexterous writing. It is essential for any collection on U.S. history, Colonial America, Virginia, slavery, or miscegenation. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/08.]--Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe, AZ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.