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Publisher's Summary

Jesse J. Holland's The Invisibles is the first book to tell the story of the executive mansion's most unexpected residents: the African American slaves who lived with the US presidents who owned them.
Interest in African Americans and the White House are at an all-time high due to the historic presidency of Barack Obama and the soon-to-be-opened Smithsonian National Museum of African American Culture and History. The Invisibles chronicles the African American presence inside the White House from its beginnings in 1782 until 1862, when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which granted slaves their freedom. During these years, slaves were the only African Americans to whom the most powerful men in the United States were exposed on a daily and familiar basis. By hearing about these often-intimate relationships, listeners will better understand some of the views that various presidents held about class and race in American society and how these slaves contributed not only to the lives and comforts of the presidents they served but to America as a whole.
©2016 Jesse J. Holland (P)2016 Tantor
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Critic Reviews

"A quick, informative history of a lamentable chapter in America's past." (Kirkus)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Jean on 02-13-16

Riveting Book

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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5 of 6 people found this review helpful


By JayHey on 02-27-16

A history that all Americans should know.

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!<br/>

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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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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