The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves in the White House
by Jesse J. Holland
Publication Date: Jan 01, 2016
List Price: $25.95
Format: Hardcover, 240 pages
Imprint: Lyons Press
Publisher: Lyons Press
Parent Company: Lyons Press
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How did you begin researching the story?
Only one or two of the slaves who worked for the president ever had anything written—Paul Jennings wrote a memoir—but there’s very little written about these men and women enslaved by the presidents. Most of my research was done by reading between lines of presidential memoirs and piecing all of it into one coherent narrative. Presidential historians that work at Monticello and Hermitage in Tennessee, for example, want this research done; they were thrilled when someone wanted to look at these records and were able to send me a lot of materials.
What were some of the more unexpected details you can across during your research?
One of the things that surprised me is how much information was written about these slaves without calling them slaves. They were called servants, they were staff— but they were slaves. Andrew Jackson’s horse racing operation included slave jockeys. There have been things written about Andrew Jackson and horses and jockeys, but not one mentioned the word “slaves.” They were called employees in all the records. So, it’s there, once you know the words to look for. I was also surprised with how much time the presidents spent talking about their slaves in those same code words. When you start reading memoirs, ledgers, these people show up again and again and again, but they are never actually called slaves. Read the full interview at Smithsonianmag.com/.
The Invisibles Slavery Inside The White House and How It Helped Shape America is the first book to tell the story of the executive mansion’s most unexpected residents, the African American slaves who lived with the U.S. 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 that 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 reading about these often-intimate relationships, readers 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 life and comforts of the presidents they served, but to America as a whole.
- History / African American
- History / United States / State & Local / Middle Atlantic (DC, DE, MD, NJ, NY, PA)
- Political Science / American Government / Executive Branch
- Political Science / History & Theory
- Social Science / Slavery