Thursday, January 5, 2012

Jefferson's Sons

Most people know Thomas Jefferson as the third President of the United States, author of the Declaration of Independence, and one of the founding fathers. But there is a lot more to Thomas Jefferson than was covered in your American History class. In Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, the reader learns about the last twenty years of Jefferson’s epic life. Told through the eyes of three young slave boys, Beverly, Madison (Maddy), and Peter Fossett, you learn of the scandalous and not so secret life of Thomas Jefferson.

Beverly and Madison are definitely not ordinary. Though they are slaves, they are keeping a big secret, which everyone knows about. They work at Monticello, but both are troubled by the daunting secret that their master and owner, Thomas Jefferson, is their father. The novel raises the question of how can the man who wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” not only own slaves, but also let his children be slaves?

Sally Hemings, Beverly and Madison’s mother, has been a topic of controversy for over two centuries. Bradley portrays her as a woman determined to see her children free above anything else. I have always been fascinated by the story of Sally Hemings, so I was quick to grab this new Young Adult book. Each perspective is different and each will cause you to feel a range of emotions. Maybe it is the fact that each character starts out as a young child with na├»ve eyes and as they grow both the character and the reader are exposed to the hypocrisies of the situation. It would have been interesting if Bradley chose to represent the character of Harriet, Jefferson and Hemings’ daughter, and her perspective on the situation at Monticello. The last character portrayed in Peter Fossett, who is another young slave boy. Peter’s situation tells of the aftermath after Jefferson’s death. The last scene is harrowing and you cannot help but feel distraught at the entire situation.

Bradley provides additional research information for anyone who wishes to research more about the Hemings and Jefferson. All in all, Bradley did an amazing job of connecting all the characters and presenting the situation well enough that the reader is more than moved by the story.

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