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Each February in honor of the National Black History Month, I read a book by or about African Americans. “The Invisibles” is my choice for 2016. Holland tells the stories of the slaves who worked inside the White House from President Washington until President Lincoln’s 1862 Emancipation Proclamation. The slaves worked as cooks, butlers, maids, body servants, doormen and footmen. Holland provides in-depth stories of some slaves, primarily those that had documented history, such as, George Washington’s William Lee, Thomas Jefferson’s Sally Heming and James Madison’s Paul Jennings. President John Adams and President John Q. Adams did not have slaves. I noted an error in the book, Holland stated that the Adams were Quakers; that is incorrect they were Unitarians. Holland also provided an over view of the history of slavery in American including race mixing.
Holland is a journalist who wrote the book “Black Men Built the Capitol”. The book is well research, documented and well written. Holland provides analysis and insight into the period of American slavery. Overall the book provides a look at the White House from the viewpoint of slavery. J. D. Jackson did a good job narrating the book.
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Would you listen to The Invisibles again? Why?
This is a fascinating, all too short history of the enslaved African-Americans who were the support staff of the great majority of our early presidents.
What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?
The great variety of human stories - from the young woman who escaped George Washington's Philadelphia Executive Mansion to P. Jennings who showed charity to his former mistress (Dolly Madison) even though she had broken every promise made to him and his fellow slaves she had made. And the last slave of a US President lived until 1943!
What about JD Jackson’s performance did you like?
Mr. Jackson had an easy to listen to clear voice and showed flexibility in both expressing the author's and the quoted slaves emotions and ideas while keeping the listener's interest.
If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?
The Real Backstairs of the White House.
Any additional comments?
I only regret that Mr. Holland did not have more to share with us ( which he bemoans himself) and thank him for educating me on a subject that was never mentioned in my time in school.
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