Thomas Jefferson was a great man. He was a Patriot, a President, the author of the Declaration of Independence and the founder of the University of Virginia. He is remembered to this day for the great things he did. He also did some things that cause many people to pause and ponder. For example, Jefferson had several children with one of his slaves, a woman named Sally Hemmings. Because our Declaration of Independence, written by Jefferson, so plainly states that all men are created equal, Americans today have a difficult time with the fact that Jefferson himself was a slave owner. We know this to be wrong, but Jefferson did not see or chose not to acknowledge the irony of the situation.
Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley explores what life was like on the plantation for the sons and the daughter that Jefferson had with Sally. It is told in first person by three different people – Beverly and Maddy, two of Jefferson’s sons with Sally Hemmings, and Peter, their friend and another slave on the plantation. Each boy has a unique voice. The reader sees life through each boy’s eyes and can understand each boy’s feelings, fears, hopes and dreams.
Although the children were never publicly acknowledged by Jefferson, modern DNA evidence taken from Jefferson’s legitimate descendents and Sally Hemmings’ descendents seems to show a common ancestry or the truth of the story. I have always admired Thomas Jefferson and reading this book did not change that. However, like all men Jefferson had flaws that should be acknowledged.
I really liked this book. Kimberly Brubaker Bradley does a great job of telling this story and making the reader feel as if he or she were actually a part of history. She includes a detailed author’s note at the end explaining which parts of the story are true and which parts she made up to make the story more entertaining. If you are interested in little known African American History, the history of the early United States or Thomas Jefferson, you would probably like this book.
The following is a Google Search Story featuring Jefferson’s Sons.
Jefferson’s Sons in Brief
Author: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: Virginia Mountains early to mid 1800’s
AR BL: 3.9
AR Points: 11.0
Recommended: Grade 4 and Up