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Henry Wiencek is the author of several books, including The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1999

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Wiencek, Henry
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Just as engaging and more wide-ranging than Annette Gordon-Reed's take on Jefferson and his slaves, Wiencek's work underscores and reiterates the hypocritical tension between Jefferson's professed views on slavery and his actions on slavery. Jefferson can claim to want to free his slaves, then plead poverty as to why he can't; he can claim Black people do not have the rigor to function in society, while training his slaves as chefs and artisans, and dismiss Phillis Wheatley and Benjamin Banneker. And, the letter written by his own slave Hannah. His chapter on Sally Hemings is more sedate and even-handed than Gordon-Reed's too. Wiencek demolishes the mythos of the saintly Jefferson, but in a way that does not come off as a screed or philippic. You can still see redeeming features in the times, in the Founders, and the American experiment. You can wince at the bad while still recognizing the good.… (més)
tuckerresearch | Hi ha 7 ressenyes més | Jan 12, 2024 |
kburne1 | Hi ha 2 ressenyes més | Aug 13, 2022 |
This was significantly better than the George Washington biography. Mainly because the author doesn't like Jefferson and so is able to be more honest.
Slave owners are monsters, Founding Fathers or not they are monsters. TJ was simply smarter than GW. He knew how to write deceptively. He knew how to hide or obfuscate his true beliefs under wordy enlightened sounding explanations. He lied a wjole heckuvlot. That this view persists is due largely to a supersize portion of White Fragility helped by racists practices that work to keep non whites out of academia. Pretty much every sin that the author accuses TJ biographers of making he does the same in his biography of GW. White Fragility is why I try to avoid white historians. It's hard even from this great distance in time to accurrately admit how this country was founded and to hold the founders accountable for whites most especially men.
I learned a lot about how slavery functioned on Virginia Plantations during this time period. Originally enslaved persons lived cramped in cabins with no family members. There is a pit that exists under the floorboards where enslaved peoples must have kept their possessions. Later TJ changes the production on Monticello and enslaved persons have family cabins and this hiding place disappears.
Most shocking for me is that enslaved persons were consumers. They worked sun up to sunset for TJ, labor for which they were not paid-not even in food, clothing or housing. Enslaved peoples grew large gardens and raised chickens in their downtimes. The produce and eggs, chickens were then sold to the big house and in town. Enslaved peoples used the profits to buy clothes, dishes, etc. They were self supporting in their downtimes.
Also TJ didn't want skilled white workers from Europe. He feared they would want what he has and challenge the status quo. His plan was to train enslaved peoples with skilled trades, which he did. Those folks go onto to build Monticello in fine, skilled detail work. They build the White House, twice, and most of Washington DC. Yet TJ insists that 'blacks' and paying for their care is why he dies in debt. In truth he was bad with money and kept his slaves because exploiting intelligent humans is a profitable enterprise, which is why prison labor is so profitable today. Skilled laborers with exploitable earnings. The few slaves TJ frees in his will work in the area for decades in attempts to buy their spouses and kids. One family is broken up amongst 8 separate buyers. The human cost is staggering. The Founding Fathers are unredeemable.
… (més)
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LoisSusan | Hi ha 7 ressenyes més | Dec 10, 2020 |
This is well written and very interesting. It's a bit dated as so much more has come to light about say Oney Judge. None the less readable and interesting.
The author considers George Washington to have not been racist and a benevolent slave owner. Which is a bit like a compassionate rapist. A oxymoron.
He then follows up with GW violating the Federal Slave Act as sitting president. Followed by detailed methods he used to oppress the Enslaved Peoples on his many estates.There is no benevolence in these actions. In addition the idea that black folks owe free service is racism all on it's own. The author details the daily lives of most of GW's Enslaved population on multiple Washington and Custis Estates: they left home before light, worked until dark, were provided a single meal a day. They were expected to grow their own food, keep their own chickens and hunt and fish. In the small amount of down time they were alloted. In addition they were inadequately clothed unless in service where visitors could see them. Yet the author makes repeated references to slave theft. I guess they were just supposed to nobly starve and freeze to death. GW was the thief. He stole their labor they were surviving. He's the thief not them. He also references common slave resistance techniques and then uses that as a reason that GW 'had' to punish them, as if owning humans was something he had to do. As if humans being oppressed have none of the rights of liberty that GW felt entitled to. I appreciate the effort by this author but GW's actions can not be excused. They absolutely are representative of who he is and they taint his image for all posterity. Period.… (més)
LoisSusan | Hi ha 6 ressenyes més | Dec 10, 2020 |



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