In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives

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Hardcover - Did you know that many of America’s Founding Fathers—who fought for liberty and justice for all—were slave owners? Through the powerful stories of five enslaved people who were “owned” by four of our greatest presidents, this middle-grade nonfiction book helps set the record straight about the role slavery played in the founding of America.

From Billy Lee, valet to George Washington, to Alfred Jackson, personal manservant and lifelong slave of Andrew Jackson, these dramatic narratives explore our country’s great tragedy—that a nation “conceived in liberty” was also born in shackles. These stories help us know the real people who were essential to the birth of this nation but traditionally have been left out of US history books. Their stories are true—and they should be heard.

This thoroughly-researched and documented book by Kenneth C. Davis can be worked into multiple aspects of the Common Core curriculum. It is a great resource for young students of United States history.

Praise for In the Shadow of Liberty:

"This well-researched book offers a chronological history of slavery in America and features five enslaved people and the four U.S. presidents who owned them.... A valuable, broad perspective on slavery." —Booklist, starred review

"Compulsively readable. . . . A must-have selection." —School Library Journal, starred review

"[A] powerful examination of five enslaved individuals and their presidential owners. . . . In a thoroughly researched and reasoned account, Davis exposes the intricacies of this impossibly tangled web." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

"The premise of this work is unique, and Davis has a very readable storytelling style. . . . An important and timely corrective." —Kirkus Reviews

"Davis’s solid research. . . accessible prose, and determination to make these stories known give young readers an important alternative to textbook representations of colonial life." —The Horn Book

"By exploring the humanity of people held in bondage by early American presidents, Kenneth C. Davis once again turns American mythology into history. Read the book and be grateful." —Marcus Rediker, author of The Slave Ship: A Human History

“The young woman was enslaved, but also privileged. She was part of the household of the nation's first president. This powerful book tells her story, and others, which are surprising and have been unknown to most of us. They will give you insights into our American heritage that you may not have considered before. I hope In the Shadow of Liberty will be widely read. It is important and timely." —Joy Hakim, author of A History of US (Oxford University Press)

"Davis' newest book is fascinating." —Kids' Home Library

Age Range:  10 - 14