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Jefferson's Sons

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  6,188 ratings  ·  996 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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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 4.07  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,188 ratings  ·  996 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 ...more
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
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
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 ...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
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 ...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
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 get ...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
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.
Taylor Dodge
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
7/5 stars. This is so raw, heart-breaking, and IMPORTANT. READ THIS BOOK.
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, ...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.
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.
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
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 ...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 ,
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.
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.
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
Jan 27, 2012 rated it it was ok
1/27/12 I'm about halfway through. So far it seems to be a typical slave story, complete with overseers and bullwhips, that seems at odds with the rationally ordered Jeffersonian universe I thought I knew. The author is guilty of "present-ism," or giving her characters modern mindsets in the 18th/19th century cusp. Alexander Pope and Jane Austen are spinning in their graves.

Other reviews are quite positive, though, so I must be mistaken. I think I could swallow this better if it didn't purport
Richie Partington
Nov 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
20 October 2011 JEFFERSON'S SONS: A FOUNDING FATHER'S SECRET CHILDREN by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Dial, September 2011, 368p., ISBN: 978-0-8037-3499-9

"'Ah,' said Mama. 'Then why would this boy be a slave?'
"Beverly didn't know what Mama wanted them to say. He took Maddy's hand and rubbed it. 'He's kind of dark,' Beverly said. 'I mean, not really, but his skin is a little darker than mine.'
"'So, dark skin is what makes you a slave?' Mama said. 'Everyone with dark skin is a slave?'
"Well that
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have read a fair number of books on the subject of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings and their children recently. Many of them were scholarly, historical works. They have all been fascinating and illuminating. This one, although fictional, may just be the best. It's the only one that left me with tears in my eyes at the end. The others were just as moving, but this one made it personal.

Jefferson had six children with his wife, Martha Wayles Jefferson, but only two survived to adulthood, both
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
The fascinating story of Thomas Jefferson's children with Sally Hemings, his lifelong companion and also his slave, as they grew up at Monticello. So many heart-wrenching issues--a daughter and son were light skinned enough to "pass as white" so they left their home to live as white at age 21, relinquishing their childhood identities and their family and entering a completely foreign life and culture with no connections or relationships; another son's skin was not light enough, so he was forced ...more
Jenny Hartfelder
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I recently read Road to Dawn. Although that was a helpful view into the issue of slavery, I felt like Jefferson's Sons helped me grasp the reality and impact of it in a way that Road to Dawn did not. Road to Dawn had such an exclusive emphasis on the brutality that I felt like I was missing a piece of the story. My brain kept arguing, "Yes ... but not all masters were as brutal as those described in Road to Dawn." And that's where Jefferson's Sons has helped me. These were real people, real ...more
May 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
I gave this 4 stars because although I thought that the story was so so so interesting, the book was not super interesting. I thought that the author did a great job giving everyone personalities. I guess that what I mostly didn't like was that there wasn't a lot of action, and the personalities kept changing. I liked that the personalities changed because I got to learn many people's stories, but I thought that all of the changing made the story a little flat. For example, the book starts when ...more
This was a good historical novel for young adults. It does deal with adult relationships, slavery, and some complex themes. It was interesting to see a fictional perspective of some of the historical relationships of the black slave relatives of Thomas Jefferson. I wasn't aware, until recently, of the children that Jefferson had with one of his slaves, Sally. I want to learn more of the actual history about their lives and relationships. I'm not sure if the personalities and fictional characters ...more
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Kimberly Brubaker Bradley did a remarkable job of researching Thomas Jeffereson, his secret children by Sally Hemings, daily life on his farm, and the reality of slavery in the early days of our country. Every named character in her book comes from history and can be historically documented. This book is written for young people, and reading it will teach them a lot about the history of slavery in our country. The power in the book , however, comes from Bradley's question, "Can a person be great ...more
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