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Jefferson's Daughters : Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America
by Catherine Kerrison




Overview -
The remarkable untold story of Thomas Jefferson's three daughters--two white and free, one black and enslaved--and the divergent paths they forged in a newly independent America

FINALIST FOR THE GEORGE WASHINGTON PRIZE - "Beautifully written . . . To a nuanced study of Jefferson's two white daughters, Martha and Maria, Kerrison] innovatively adds a discussion of his only enslaved daughter, Harriet Hemings."--The New York Times Book Review

Thomas Jefferson had three daughters: Martha and Maria by his wife, Martha Wayles Jefferson, and Harriet by his slave Sally Hemings. Although the three women shared a father, the similarities end there. Martha and Maria received a fine convent school education while they lived with their father during his diplomatic posting in Paris. Once they returned home, however, the sisters found their options limited by the laws and customs of early America. Harriet Hemings followed a different path. She escaped slavery--apparently with the assistance of Jefferson himself. Leaving Monticello behind, she boarded a coach and set off for a decidedly uncertain future.

For this groundbreaking triple biography, history scholar Catherine Kerrison has uncovered never-before-published documents written by the Jefferson sisters, as well as letters written by members of the Jefferson and Hemings families. The richly interwoven stories of these strong women and their fight to shape their own destinies shed new light on issues of race and gender that are still relevant today--and on the legacy of one of our most controversial Founding Fathers.

Praise for Jefferson's Daughters

"A fascinating glimpse of where we have been as a nation . . . Catherine Kerrison tells us the stories of three of Thomas Jefferson's children, who, due to their gender and race, lived lives whose most intimate details are lost to time."--USA Today

"A valuable addition to the history of Revolutionary-era America."--The Boston Globe

"A thought-provoking nonfiction narrative that reads like a novel."--BookPage

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Overview

The remarkable untold story of Thomas Jefferson's three daughters--two white and free, one black and enslaved--and the divergent paths they forged in a newly independent America

FINALIST FOR THE GEORGE WASHINGTON PRIZE - "Beautifully written . . . To a nuanced study of Jefferson's two white daughters, Martha and Maria, Kerrison] innovatively adds a discussion of his only enslaved daughter, Harriet Hemings."--The New York Times Book Review

Thomas Jefferson had three daughters: Martha and Maria by his wife, Martha Wayles Jefferson, and Harriet by his slave Sally Hemings. Although the three women shared a father, the similarities end there. Martha and Maria received a fine convent school education while they lived with their father during his diplomatic posting in Paris. Once they returned home, however, the sisters found their options limited by the laws and customs of early America. Harriet Hemings followed a different path. She escaped slavery--apparently with the assistance of Jefferson himself. Leaving Monticello behind, she boarded a coach and set off for a decidedly uncertain future.

For this groundbreaking triple biography, history scholar Catherine Kerrison has uncovered never-before-published documents written by the Jefferson sisters, as well as letters written by members of the Jefferson and Hemings families. The richly interwoven stories of these strong women and their fight to shape their own destinies shed new light on issues of race and gender that are still relevant today--and on the legacy of one of our most controversial Founding Fathers.

Praise for Jefferson's Daughters

"A fascinating glimpse of where we have been as a nation . . . Catherine Kerrison tells us the stories of three of Thomas Jefferson's children, who, due to their gender and race, lived lives whose most intimate details are lost to time."--USA Today

"A valuable addition to the history of Revolutionary-era America."--The Boston Globe

"A thought-provoking nonfiction narrative that reads like a novel."--BookPage

 

Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101886267
  • ISBN-10: 1101886269
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • Publish Date: January 2019
  • Page Count: 448
  • Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.85 pounds


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BookPage Reviews

Book Clubs: February 2019

Top Pick: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
An Oprah’s Book Club pick in 2018, Tayari Jones’ electrifying fourth novel, An American Marriage, tells the story of Roy and Celestial, a newly married couple whose future looks bright. Celestial is an up-and-coming artist and Roy is a business executive, but their lives are shattered when the couple travels to Roy’s hometown in Louisiana, where he’s wrongfully accused of a terrible crime and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Jones presents a poignant portrait of the once-optimistic couple and the injustices they face as husband and wife during Roy’s incarceration. When he’s released after serving almost half his sentence, the pair struggles to resume their lives and regain a sense of normalcy. Told in part through the letters Roy and Celestial exchange while he’s imprisoned, Jones’ skillfully constructed narrative feels all too timely. It’s at once a powerful portrayal of marriage and a shrewd exploration of America’s justice system. 


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Jefferson’s Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America
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Historian Kerrison uncovers the fascinating lives of Martha and Maria, Thomas Jefferson’s daughters with Martha Wayles Skelton, as well as Harriet, his daughter with Sally Hemings who forges a life for herself outside the bonds of slavery. 


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This article was originally published in the February 2019 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 

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