Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

“‘Master Jefferson has done a lot of great things…he was a leader in the war.  He wrote that declaration thing.  He made us a new country.  And then he went to France, and he was president…so, does all that mean he’s a great person?  White folks seem to think so.  If you’re great enough in some areas, does it make up for the rest?’

Maddy asked, ‘Would a great person sell someone else’s son?'” (p. 254-255)

How would you feel if your father was the President of the United States, but no one could know about it?  Or if your father was also your owner?

In Jefferson’s Sons, Bradley tells the story of Thomas Jefferson’s other children-those he had with his slave, Sally Hemmings.  Beverly, Harriet, Maddy & Eston get better treatment than the other slaves at Monticello, but they are still slaves.  Beverly, Harriet & Eston are light-skinned enough that at age 21, when they receive their freedom, they’ll be able to enter white society, but it’s a decision that will mean never seeing their mother or Maddy again.  Bradley explores complex issues of slavery, identity, equality, freedom, and family while maintaining a certain measure of innocence by telling the story through a child’s eyes.  The story dragged a bit towards the middle, but press on through that because the ending is incredibly powerful and brought tears to my eyes.

Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Juvenile Fiction | 368 pages | September 2011 | Dial | 0803734999 | Library copy
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Filed under Book Reviews, Children's Literature

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