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My Name Is James Madison Hemings by Jonah…
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My Name Is James Madison Hemings

by Jonah Winter

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Presented as historical fiction, (as detailed in an author’s note) this first person narrative of the son of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings was inspired by and partially based on an 1873 newspaper interview in which Madison Hemings made the claim of his heritage. The author also used the recent groundbreaking work of Annette Gordon-Reed to imagine what Madison Hemings’ life must have been like. He begins his story this way: “Slavery: when one human being owns another human being. To the owner, the enslaved person is often no more than a piece of property–a sheep, a horse, a ‘slave.’” That his master was his father, he reveals early on: “We dared not reveal we knew he was our father. This truth, self-evident…was never to be spoken of.” He does not reveal, however, until the final page of the book just who is father is. The use of the word “self-evident” is a chilling reminder of the words penned by Jefferson that make this complicated aspect of American history so difficult to understand. This book, however, is a start, opening the door to equally complex race relations, which face America today. For older students, link this book with Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s novel Jefferson’s Sons. ( )
  pataustin | Jan 22, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385383428, Hardcover)

Here’s a powerful historical picture book about the child of founding father Thomas Jefferson and the enslaved Sally Hemings.

In an evocative first-person account accompanied by exquisite artwork, Winter and Widener tell the story of James Madison Hemings’s childhood at Monticello, and, in doing so, illuminate the many contradictions in Jefferson’s life and legacy. Though Jefferson lived in a mansion, Hemings and his siblings lived in a single room. While Jefferson doted on his white grandchildren, he never showed affection to his enslaved children. Though he kept the Hemings boys from hard field labor—instead sending them to work in the carpentry shop—Jefferson nevertheless listed the children in his “Farm Book” along with the sheep, hogs, and other property. Here is a profound and moving account of one family’s history, which is also America’s history.

An author's note includes more information about Hemings, Jefferson, and the author's research.

(retrieved from Amazon Wed, 22 Jun 2016 14:53:12 -0400)

Winter and Widener tell the story of James Madison Hemings's childhood at Monticello, and, in doing so, illuminate the many contradictions in Jefferson's life and legacy. Though Jefferson lived in a mansion, Hemings and his siblings lived in a single room. While Jefferson doted on his white grandchildren, he never showed affection to his enslaved children. Though he kept the Hemings boys from hard field labor instead sending them to work in the carpentry shop Jefferson nevertheless listed the children in his Farm Book along with the sheep, hogs, and other property. Here is a profound and moving account of one family's history, which is also America's history.… (more)

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