Article Title

In the Shadow of Liberty


Emma Patton


Dependable, Intermediate, Young Adult, slavery; Revolutionary War; race; War of 1812; presidents; non-fiction; history; freedom

Document Type

Book Review


Today’s Americans see the founding fathers and early presidents as men of honor who advocated for the rights of every citizen and ascribed the belief that “all men are created equal.” However, In the Shadow of Liberty exposes the reality that, all too often, there was a huge difference between what these men said and what they did in their personal lives. Larger-than-life historical figures, like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, were owners of slaves. Though they were sometimes more benevolent and compassionate than other slave owners of the time, they may have offered kindness and mercy for their own, selfish reasons, rather than out of an innate belief that all men deserve freedom and justice. Ultimately, society could benefit from moving beyond the talk about “slaves,” a term which suggests a permanent identity, and instead shifting to seeing them as “enslaved persons.” These figures were, at the end of the day, just people who were trapped by a system that took so much and offered so little.