Title: Jefferson's Sons
Author: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Concepts: slavery, social justice, human resources, racial inequality, jobs, wages, apprenticeships
Review: Sally Hemings, a woman enslaved by Thomas Jefferson, had four children who survived to adulthood. Although Thomas Jefferson is widely believed to have fathered these children, they each lived as slaves on his now famous plantation, Monticello. This historical novel gives voice to two of those children - Beverly and Madison - along with a third enslaved child who also lived at Monticello - Peter Fossett.
Protected from hard labor as field hands due to their status as Jefferson's sons, Beverly and Madison nevertheless grew up as slaves and did not enjoy any of the privileges that came with freedom, including an open and loving relationship with their father. Peter had to experience the horrors of having his family members sold off one by one on the auction blocks. All three witnessed cruelty at the hands of the overseers. They wondered how Master Jefferson, president of the country and author of words communicating that all men are created equal, would allow slavery to continue, even in his own home.
This provocative novel gives middle grade and young adult readers a new perspective on the institution of slavery in the United States and how it could be condoned, and even exploited, by the country's third president and main author of the Declaration of Independence. With additional highlights that include the topics of wage labor, apprenticeships, and education, the book provides a unique opportunity to use fiction as a vehicle for encouraging young learners to think about the insidiousness of slavery and how it could strip even the president's own children of their dignity and rights.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children