Davis, Kenneth C. In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives. 304p. bibliog. chron. index. notes. photos. Holt. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781627793117.
Gr 6 Up –Many are familiar with the lives of the Founding Fathers—their legacies are woven into the very fabric of our nation. Yet Davis peels back the layers of early U.S. history to provide readers with an aspect of the American story that is often ignored. Drawing on a wealth of primary sources, images, statistics, and personal accounts, this work gives readers a more complete picture of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Jackson through profiles of the enslaved people they owned. This volume does not shy away from the horrific reality of this portion of U.S. history, nor does it suggest readers should abandon all nostalgic notions of the Founding Fathers. Instead, Davis encourages middle schoolers and older students to use this work as an additional lens to better comprehend the time period and contribute to an improved understanding of current racial tensions. Davis does not disappoint with this title. Compulsively readable, this book follows the narratives of Billy Lee, Ona Judge, Isaac Granger, Paul Jennings, and Alfred Jackson, enhanced with historical context and insight. A time line before each chapter grounds readers in the history without overwhelming them with information. Images serve to complement the text effectively, and an index will make this text useful for research. While this entry is satisfying in its entirety, teachers can easily incorporate sections of the text into the curriculum or have students read different portions. VERDICT This is a must-have selection for any library collection to present alternative takes on history.
This review was published in the School Library Journal August 2016 issue.