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Jefferson's Sons

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  7,079 ratings  ·  1,114 reviews
The untold story of Thomas Jefferson's slave children

Beverly, Harriet, Madison, and Eston are Thomas Jefferson's children by one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, and while they do get special treatment - better work, better shoes, even violin lessons - they are still slaves, and are never to mention who their father is. The lighter-skinned children have been promised a chance
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published September 15th 2011 by Dial Books (first published September 1st 2011)
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Gabriella I would say 12+. A pre-teen could read it for the story, but I feel that they may struggle understanding the heavier bits and themes.
Nicole Definitely. Complicated relationships between Thomas Jefferson and the secret family he had with one of his many slaves. Several of his children with …moreDefinitely. Complicated relationships between Thomas Jefferson and the secret family he had with one of his many slaves. Several of his children with Sally Hemmings looked just like him and later when freed, lived as free white citizens. (less)

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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  7,079 ratings  ·  1,114 reviews

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Aug 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
When I was in high school I started reading Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved on my own. At the time, my mother said something about the book that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. She noted that the novel was remarkable because it showed that even the best possible slave situation was still an intolerable one. There is no “good” slaveholder, no matter how nice they might be, and no matter how well they treat their slaves. I understood a bit of this but I’ve never really encountered a bo ...more
Lisa  (not getting friends updates) Vegan
I’d read four other books by this author The War That Saved My Life, The War I Finally Won, Halfway to the Sky, and Fighting Words and had given them all 5 stars. Prior to reading I was not drawn to this one as I immediately was to the others and I ended up not enjoying it quite as much as the other four, but I enjoyed it more and more as I read on and I contemplated giving it 5 stars.

As in her other books the author creates incredibly believable characters, both children and adults.

It was bru
Aug 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Can a person be great and still participate in evil?

This question lives at the heart of Jefferson's Sons, a fictionalized account of the lives of Thomas Jefferson's children by his slave, Sally Hemings. From the captivating cover art to the last devastating line, this book is engaging and thought-provoking.

Beverly, Harriet, Maddy, & Eston Hemings will be freed when they reach the age of 21. Master Jefferson has promised their mother this. For now, they are well taken care of; they do not wo
The Library Lady
I live in Northern Virginia. Have been to Monticello a number of times--it's only about 2 hours from here. Have read lots of books on Jefferson. Have known the Hemmings story for years and have read Wolf By the Ears, another version of the story as seen through Harriet Hemings' eyes.

Bradley is a fine writer of historical fiction. Both of my daughters and I loved her The President's Daughter about young Ethel Roosevelt.

So I was eager to read this, and yet I finished it disappointed and had no int
Dec 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Excellent. Juvenile, historical fiction. This is a powerful story that touched me deeply. After you read this book you will never look at color, or race on the same way ever again. Thomas Jefferson's children by his slave, Sally Hemings, were legally white, but they were the children of a slave woman so they were slaves. This story cuts to the heart of the irony of the slave culture in America and poses the question, what does it mean to be "black," or to be "white?" Can the color of your skin d ...more
Stephanie Anze
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Sally Hemings and her children (Beverly, Madison, Eston and Harriet) are slaves in Monticello, the estate owned by Thomas Jefferson. Unlike the rest of her contemporaries, Sally and her children enjoy some perks (better work, clothes and even violin lessons) because Master Jefferson is also the father to these children. While the adults understand the situation, the children can not begin to comprehend it. As they struggle to find their place, they must also establish their identity.

I read 'Amer
Jan 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is a book that I highly recommend to all middle school students and adults as well. It is all about Thomas Jefferson and his life at Monticello. He talks about his relationship with Sally Hemings and all of his children by her and also by his wife. It is an extremely sad book especially at the end. This book is an eye-opener into the lives that slaves led and how they were treated years ago. When Cove it is over I will definitely want to visit Monticello and see all of the places that were ...more
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: byl-reads
This is such a powerful and important book. It is easy to put the Founding Fathers on a pedestal. But no person is perfect, and Thomas Jefferson, especially, was a walking contradiction. He wrote that all men are created equal - something our entire nation is founded upon - and yet he not only kept and sold slaves, but he kept his own children as slaves. I think this novel raises important questions that our children should think about as they study history - can someone be a hero while also par ...more
Elizabeth K.
Nov 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011-new-reads
Good grief, this was a hard read at times because of the subject matter, but overall it's an extremely thought-provoking book. It's mostly the story of Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson's children, who were raised as slaves at Monticello, and party the story of another enslaved family who were their friends.

My only real complaint is that it's a little expository, a character will answer a conversational question with a comprehensive overview of some element of Jefferson family history, but I ca
May 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
You are a slave in Virginia, not just a slave to anyone, but to the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. He isn’t just your master though, he is your father but you can’t tell anyone as it will ruin his reputation. You work for your father, the president, who gives his white children everything they want while you, unable to do anything, stays silent and watch his other children be happy. You can’t do anything about it, you have no say in anything. On the bright side, you ge ...more
Jul 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely outstanding and unique perspective into slavery. One of the most common questions about the Founding of the Father is how Jefferson can be so hypocritical to say "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" while owning people!??! This book gives insight into what it was like to be owned by your father/the former presiden ...more
Aug 29, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: tweens-teens, af-am
One definitely could not introduce this book to young readers without first giving them other lessons on the era of slavery. By this I mean, solidly grounded factually based information of the times. Although I enjoyed Bradley's story line, the voices and thought processes of the characters did not ring true for that era.
Many times throughout the book, I found myself thinking,"He would not have said this or she would not think along those lines during the 1800s. I needed to keep reminding myself
Kristin (Life Between the Pages)
Almost a week after finishing this book, I had to come back and change my rating from 4 to 5 stars, because parts of this story are STILL popping into my head. That's got to be worthy of the extra star, right? Some things drag on and the long list of characters took me longer to straighten out than I would have liked, but those are small gripes compared to the poignancy of the book. And that ending is everything. ...more
Sarah Johnson
Nov 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up at the Boulder Bookstore on their shelf for what kids are reading in school. So glad to know this is a part of school curriculum. I love how Bradley passes the narrative onto each 7 year-old boy once the older one has reached his teen years and it is through their perspective that the reader comes to understand the devastating consequences and injustices of slavery in America.
Deacon Tom F
Mar 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a book. It weaves mountais of historical data into a great story.
Nov 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let’s just say, I’ll never think of Thomas Jefferson the same way. I’m also glad I didn’t buy a statue bust of him in D.C. like I did some of the other presidents.
I’m torn between his brilliance and what he did to form this country, and the seemingly contradictory and hypocritical way he lived his life - accumulating such horrific debt that he sold 130 people to pay the debtors.

More than once, the author wrote dialogue explaining her belief that Thomas Jefferson thought he was being true to hi
May 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
It's clear this author did a tremendous amount of research, but this novel lacks authenticity and heart. At no point did these characters seem true to their time period. Rather, the modern sensibilities of our society seem thrust onto them and continual philosophical questions regarding the morality of slavery and the quandary that is Thomas Jefferson took center stage. I had a difficult time suspending my credulity when one of Jefferson's sons asked questions like "Am I slave" or "How can Papa ...more
Oct 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: historical fiction fans, American history students
This book was excellent. Rarely does a book written for children directly confronts the hypocrisy of one of our founding fathers, the one who wrote the Declaration of Independence, owning slaves. Told from the point of view of the three oldest slave sons of Jefferson and from the point of view of a slave child who was friends to the Jefferson boys. The author does not presume to explain why this happened but gives hints as to her opinion. Jefferson liked the good life: French food and wines, bei ...more
Jennifer Greiner
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book! It was a quick read and easily kept my interest throughout. I enjoyed the deeper insights and questions brought up regarding slavery - what defines one as a slave, how can one believe in freedom and equality (enough to author the Declaration of Independence) yet own slaves.
At times though, I questioned the believability of children pondering these questions. On the other hand, I appreciated the more innocent child-like perspective while tackling these complex issues. Intriguing
Amy-Jo Conant
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Teen or YA book

I love historical fiction but even if you don't I think many students would enjoy this book. The book requires a level of maturity to deal with issues such as slavery and mature adult relationships.

Your eyes will be opened to a part of history that many people are unaware of. The book invites the reader to look at a dark part of our American History and evaluate an American Hero through a new lens.

This book stimulates both your mind and heart.
Taylor *Sits on the Top Shelf*
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
7/5 stars. This is so raw, heart-breaking, and IMPORTANT. READ THIS BOOK.
Ava Thompson
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
"Jefferson’s Sons" is the thought-provoking story about the children of slave Sally Hemings, sired by their master President Thomas Jefferson after his wife died. As a secret that everyone knows, the children grow up with special care, better clothing, and lighter skin than the other slaves of Monticello. But as they grow, again and again they are reminded of how, though children of the president, they are still slaves.

Beverly is waiting for his 21st birthday, the birthday when Master Jefferson-
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
The novel “Jefferson’s Sons” was about the children that Thomas Jefferson conceived with his slave, Sally Hemings. It’s told from three people’s points of view — Beverly, the eldest child, Maddy, the third child, and Peter, a close friend of the Hemings family. It's a fictional novel, though the characters and events in this story were based on reality. I find it fascinating how this book focused on a part of Thomas Jefferson’s life that many people don’t like to mention. Although it’s public k ...more
Juan Olvera
Oct 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
When I first saw this book I was exited due to its way of history and topic ,the book was just referred to the history I just liked. I really did enjoy this book because of its characters determination and they gave it all, and this book taught me how to do that.
This book was a good book and I give it a 4 star. The character of Beverly was a young boy fighting and also striving for and never giving up boy. Beverly's actions were the once that really impacted this book along with his family , es
Feb 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars.
This is an important book and I felt like the author did a wonderful job filling in the gaps of Sally's story with plausible events.
Admittedly, my feelings about Thomas Jefferson were forever changed after reading Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow; but I think going into this without holding Jefferson on a pedestal helped me appreciate struggle Sally's children wrestled with more than I otherwise would have.
As far as this being labeled a middle grade, I'm torn. The subject matter is
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book.
Dec 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really excellent and powerful and heartbreaking. How can “good” people do such awful things? A terribly difficult question for adults to wrestle with, and this novel would make kids wrestle, too. Really great.
Nov 17, 2020 rated it did not like it
This book did not work for me. The parts that are fictionalized - the feelings and private conversations between enslaved people - seem unrealistic to me, and I can only guess that the difference between my educated guess and the author's boils down to our experiences of race in the US (me being black and the author being white). ...more
Everyone knows (or should know) who Thomas Jefferson was. But do you know who Sally Hemings is? Or Beverly, Harriet, Madison and Eston Hemings?

Sally Hemings was a slave. She belonged to Thomas Jefferson. Beverly, Harriet, Madison and Eston are her children, fathered by Mr. Jefferson. History has finally owned up about this fact enough to write a children's book about it.

Jefferson's sons is the story of Jefferson's children with his slave Sally. Particularly the boys. It tells the imagined tale o
Oct 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Really a compelling book. It made me want to cry and vomit by turns--sometimes even to laugh. I assumed I knew the gist of the Thomas Jefferson/Sally Hemings story, but I didn't. Bradley writes movingly and believably about what it might have been like to be the 1/8th-black slave of your president slash father. And how your existence might have affected your mother and your extended family and your white more-than-half-sister (maybe everyone knows this but me, but I was astonished to read that H ...more
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