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Jefferson's Sons: A Founding Father's Secret Children
Transcript of Jefferson's Sons: A Founding Father's Secret Children
By Kimberly Bradley
Presented by: Amanda Rice
Historical Figures and Events
-Thomas Jefferson- President of the United States 1801-1809
-Martha Wayles- Thomas Jefferson's wife who bore six children
-Sally Hemings- Thomas Jefferson's mistress
-William Beverly Hemings- Sally's son who did leave Monticello on his twenty first birthday
-James Madison Hemings- Sally's son who was taught how to read and write
-Thomas Eston Hemings- Sally's youngest son
-Harriet Hemmings II- Sally's daughter who worked in the textile factory
-Edith Fosset- Master chef at Monticello, mother to Peter and James Fosset, married to Joe Fosset
-Miss Ellen Jefferson- Thomas Jefferson's daughter who was the most scholoarly of the children
-John Hemings- Sally's brother who was a carpenter at Monticello and taught Beverly and Maddy woodworking
-Peter Fosset-Did in fact carry around a primer and escapced slavery when he was thirty
-Slaves did in fact have someone forge them a pass so that they could be free
- “What you know in your head and what you say out loud are not always the same”- Beverly Hemmings
-“I kept traveling down the road. And everywhere it was the same. What was my name, who were my people? What was I supposed to say? That my father is the president, and my mother is his slave?”- Beverly Hemmings
-“Evil comes in all colors” – Sally Hemmings
-“Running away is against the law, but it’s not wrong. Sometimes laws are wrong”- Sally Hemmings
-“Nobody can take what you learn away from you” -Sally Hemmings to Maddy about reading
Jefferson’s Sons: A Founding Father’s Secret Children by Kimberly Bradley tells the story of four enslaved children that are also the sons of Thomas Jefferson. They must keep this a secret so that they can be freed once they reach the age of 21. Although they get special treatment, such as warmer socks and shoes, they are still treated unfairly. This story provides an interpretation into the lives of Thomas Jefferson’s sons, and how they felt about growing up with a father that did not treat them as family. The three children narrators provide a relatable perspective for students because the vocabulary is written as if a child wrote the story, and the events are tied to feelings typical of children such as a longing for a father’s approval. For the teacher this book provides discussion-rich themes to talk about as a class such as slavery, human rights, and reputation.
This book is greatly appropriate for fourth grade and up because of its content and vocabulary. This story is not graphic but it does illustrate whipping and it portrays how slaves were treated at Monticello, thus this book would not be appropriate for grades below fourth grade. However, the content of slavery and human rights will provide for a rich discussion because the students are learning about the beginning of our country during this time. This book is appropriate for fourth grade and up because of its vocabulary as well as its content. The narrators of this story are all children so the story is written as if a child wrote it. Therefore the vocabulary is not too deep that the students at a fourth grade level would not be able to understand.
This book majorly addresses one of the ten thematic strands of social studies and that is power, authority and governance. This entire book illustrates how Thomas Jefferson, who wrote in the declaration of independence that all men are created equal, unfairly treated his own children to save his reputation and he also owned over 130 slaves at Monticello. This illustrates the government at this time, who was in power, and which groups of people were left out or were pushed aside. This book also addresses the Oklahoma C3 social studies Content Standard 4 of grades 4-5 in which, “The student will examine the political, economic, social, and geographic transformation of the United States during the early to mid-1800’s” (Oklahoma C3 Standards). This book is set during the early to mid 1800’s and it greatly illustrates the social injustices during this time, the economics of this time and how they affected Monticello, and it also illustrates the political aspect of Thomas Jefferson.
A lesson or activity that could be done using this book could be to have the students explore a specific character from the book in groups. The students would have to research this historical figure and find out what parts of the book were true and which were false in relation to this character. They will then write journal entries from this person’s perspective in a journal they create. This would allow the students to develop their research and writing skills while also providing them with the opportunity of putting themselves into this era in time to understand the main content included in the story. This book could also be integrated into other content areas, such as writing. The lesson that I previously described would be greatly integrated with the writing content area. Another example would be to integrate this book into the content area of mathematics through graphs. The students could research the statistics of slavery at this time, and plot these on graphs.
Oklahoma C3 Standards: Social Studies. 2012. http://ok.gov/sde/sites/ok.gov.sde/files/C3-SocialStudies.pdf
Tranquility - The quality or state of peacefulness
Independence- The state of being free from control
Declaration- A formal or explicit statement
Slave- A person who is under the legal property of another
Estate- An area of land or property
Apprentice- A person who is learning a trade from a skilled worker
Flogged - To beat or whip someone as punishment
Primary Source Documents
= Jefferson’s obelisk
= newspaper on Monticello
= declaration of independence
= painting sally hemings
= picture of Monticello
= painting Monticello
= painting Thomas Jefferson
= Map Virginia 1895
= Letter Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Randolph 1791
= Thomas jefferson’s study Monticello
The first source I found that illustrates the historical accuracy of this book was placed in the afterword of the book itself. In this afterword Kimberly Bradley illustrates that every single character in this book is historically accurate. Many of the events are accurate as well, for example Beverly does leave, return, and leave Monticello again, and Maddy is taught to read and write. Many of her findings have come from documents, letters, and she also was able to visit the Monticello estate and see the history for herself. A second source I found that reinforced what Kimberly Bradley stated in the book was from an article on the Library of Congress website. In this article the author illustrates that Sally Hemings did go to Paris with Thomas Jefferson and bore her first son not long after she returned. The author illustrates that genealogists have discovered that there is recent DNA evidence that traces the Hemings children to Thomas Jefferson. The author also illustrates that many of the evidence against the relationship of Sally and Thomas Jefferson was proved to be inaccurate, and biased to maintain certain reputations. The third source I found that illustrated Sally Heming’s relationship with Thomas Jefferson was on the Monticello website. This source does state that it has been proved that these two did have a relationship and that her children’s DNA are linked with Thomas Jefferson, however this source also goes into the discussion about where the Heming’s lived on the estate, which has been of great debate.
Bradley. K. B. Jefferson’s Sons: A Founding Father’s Secret Children. 2011. Dial Books for Young Readers. (Afterword)
Gates-Coon. R. The Children of Sally Hemings. Library of Congress. .http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/0205/hemings.html
Sally Hemings. The Jefferson Monticello.org. http://www.monticello.org/site/plantation-and-slavery/sally-hemings
Cross Cultural and Global Connections
Jefferson’s Sons can be greatly related to many cross cultural and global connections. One connection this book illustrates is the connection to human rights and what it means to be treated equally. This book greatly illustrates the injustices of slavery through a child’s eyes. Many times throughout this book, the children have great difficulty understanding why they are treated better than the field workers of Monticello, when they are black too. This perspectives allows us to see from a child’s eyes why slavery is not just, and it also shows us that people in history that we consider to be great men, such as Thomas Jefferson were corrupted by the idea that white people were superior to other races.
Throughout this book I found a few personal connections to the story. One personal connection that I had was when Maddy and his mother Sally talked about inheriting debts. During this part of the story, Thomas Jefferson fell very ill and the townsfolk were worried about the amount of debt that Thomas Jefferson had. Sally explains to Maddy that someone else will inherit his debt, and that Maddy should not worry. I connected to this part of the story because my uncle recently passed away and my mother inherited the debt since his children were minors. I immediately related to this feeling of anxiety about money, since I personally witnessed what is involved in inheriting debts. Another personal connection I made to the story was when Maddy receives a book of stories by Aesop. I personally have read this book, because my grandmother owns it and she used to read it to me when I was a child. Upon reading this part of the story, I connected with Maddy’s enthusiasm about reading these stories. When I have my own classroom I will make this book connect to my student’s lives by having them reflect upon their own connections with slavery, and their own fathers. Many of the children might relate to seeking a father’s approval, and many might even have ancestors that were affected by slavery. To have my students illustrate these connections we will have a writer’s notebook where they can write their connections to the text.