Sharon's Reviews > A Slave in the White House: Paul Jennings and the Madisons

A Slave in the White House by Elizabeth Dowling Taylor
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Nov 20, 11

bookshelves: biography
Read from October 26 to November 20, 2011

Long-time readers of my reviews know that I admire a well-researched book. "A Slave in the White House" is just such a book.

Elizabeth Dowling Taylor's book about Paul Jennings, a man born into slavery on the James and Dolley Madison estate, brings the time period and historical personae to life through a fascinating perspective. Jennings is the author of the first White House memoir, as he wrote about living with the Madisons before, during and after the presidency.(Review based on uncorrected advance proof.) Jennings bought his freedom with the assistance of Daniel Webster and went on to a career as a government clerk as he was one of the few literate African Americans at the time.

Taylor not only reviewed letters and historical documents to learn Jennings' story, but also spoke to his descendants who had not only carried on the oral history about their ancestor but also had some of his belongings and letters themsleves.

Taylor presents a multi-faceted man who took advantage of his environment (being in the room when discussions about freedom, etc., took place among his "master" and guests) to achieve success during a time when the deck was very much stacked against him.

Highly recommended.
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