Beverly, Harriet, Madison, and Eston Hemings have a complicated family. Their father is president Thomas Jefferson and their mother is his slave, Sally Hemings. They must keep the identity of their father a secret and he does not acknowledge them as his children- what would people say if they knew? The kids live with their mother in a cabin on Mulberry Row, the location of the slaves’ quarters at Monticello. They are treated better than the other slaves- better clothing, violin lessons, even the promise of freedom when they turn 21. Some of the children have light enough skin that they will have no problems once they are free, but one of the children is not so lucky. Narrated by Beverly, Madison (called Maddy), then later Peter, another boy who is a slave, they tell of life as a slave with a father so close, yet so far away.
This is an interesting piece of historical fiction. The author carefully researched Jefferson’s family tree and the history of Monticello and filled in the gaps with her imagination. An afterword identifies the facts in the book and explains why the author chose to write the story. Jefferson’s Sons taught me about Monticello and Thomas Jefferson’s secret life and is great for discussion.
4 out of 5 stars