A Slave in the White House by Elizabeth Dowling Taylor
Paul Jennings and the Madisons

88%

10 Critic Reviews

Even if you are not a lover of biographies and/or memoirs, please pick this one up. The author did an amazing job in researching this book with the help of Jennings descendants.
-Blog Critics

Synopsis

Paul Jennings was born into slavery on the plantation of James and Dolley Madison in Virginia, later becoming part of the Madison household staff at the White House. Once finally emancipated by Senator Daniel Webster later in life, he would give an aged and impoverished Dolley Madison, his former owner, money from his own pocket, write the first White House memoir, and see his sons fight with the Union Army in the Civil War. He died a free man in northwest Washington at 75. Based on correspondence, legal documents, and journal entries rarely seen before, this amazing portrait of the times reveals the mores and attitudes toward slavery of the nineteenth century, and sheds new light on famous characters such as James Madison, who believed the white and black populations could not coexist as equals; French General Lafayette who was appalled by this idea; Dolley Madison, who ruthlessly sold Paul after her husband's death; and many other since forgotten slaves, abolitionists, and civil right activists.

 

About Elizabeth Dowling Taylor

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Elizabeth Dowling Taylor received her PhD from the University of California at Berkeley. Over a 22-year career in museum education and historical research, she was director of interpretation at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and director of education at James Madison’s Montpelier. Most recently a fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, Taylor is now an independent scholar and lecturer. She lives in Barboursville, Virginia.Annette Gordon-Reed, historian and legal scholar, has a triple appointment at Harvard University, where she is Professor at the Law School, History Department, and Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. In 2009 she won the Pulitzer Prize in history for her book, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family.
 
Published January 3, 2012 by Palgrave Macmillan Trade. 337 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, War. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for A Slave in the White House
All: 10 | Positive: 9 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Excellent
Reviewed by Kirkus Reviews on Oct 15 2011

An important story of human struggle, determination and triumph.

Read Full Review of A Slave in the White House: P... | See more reviews from Kirkus

Blog Critics

Excellent
Reviewed by Mary Lignor on Nov 21 2011

Even if you are not a lover of biographies and/or memoirs, please pick this one up. The author did an amazing job in researching this book with the help of Jennings descendants.

Read Full Review of A Slave in the White House: P... | See more reviews from Blog Critics

Christian Science Monitor

Excellent
Reviewed by Marjorie Kehe on Jan 06 2012

...sometimes reads slowly due to the meticulous work Taylor had to do in piecing together small scraps of information from multiple sources. But as a whole it tells a story that is as intriguing as it is uncomfortable.

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The Seattle Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Steve Raymond on Jan 23 2012

However, she describes some of the subtle and not-so-subtle methods that white slaveholders, even including the libertarian Madison, used to dehumanize their "property."

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The Washington Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Jonathan Yardley on Jan 13 2012

Elizabeth Dowling Taylor speculates that the “likely picture that emerges is of a young Paul absorbing language skills by ‘standing in’ on lessons offered to one or more boys of the Madison extended family.

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CNN Money

Excellent
Reviewed by David Whitford on Mar 09 2012

Reading Taylor's book, I was repeatedly struck by how few leaps are required to connect the present with slave days, and even with the era of the founders.

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TheTimesWeekly.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Terri Schlichenmeyer on Jan 31 2012

You might think you know our nation’s past, but this book may surprise you. If you’re up for a great historical biography, in fact, “A Slave in the White House” will surely keep you in your seat.

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That's What She Read

Good
Reviewed by Michelle Shannon on Jun 14 2012

...is a fascinating inside look at an era that changed the face of the nation, at a subject that continues to divide the country, and at the most powerful and influential men and women the country has ever seen.

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The Book Dorks.

Below average
Reviewed by shelleybean1 on Oct 14 2012

Repetitive, boring, and not incredibly enlightening, A Slave in the White House: Paul Jennings and the Madisons is poorly named and not a fun or even educational read.

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BookLust

Good
Reviewed by Aarti on Dec 02 2011

Overall, this book was a good introduction to a fascinating and important historical person, but I don't think the title is indicative of the contents...

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Reader Rating for A Slave in the White House
68%

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