Quote of the Day

Published:November 20, 2012 by Brendan Wolfe

From a response to his critics by Henry Wiencek, author of Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves:

I am not surprised that [Annette] Gordon-Reed disliked my book so much, given that it systematically demolishes her portrayal of Jefferson as a kindly master of black slaves. In The Hemingses of Monticello, she described with approval Jefferson’s “plans for his version of a kinder, gentler slavery at Monticello with his experiments with the nail factory.” Gordon-Reed cannot like the now established truth that the locus of Jefferson’s “kinder, gentler slavery” was the very place where children were beaten to get them to work. At first I assumed that she simply did not know about the beatings, but when I double-checked her book’s references to the nailery I discovered that she must have known: A few hundred pages away from her paean to the nail factory, she cited the very letter in which “the small ones” are described as being lashed there.

In her review, Gordon-Reed mocked me for “cataloging the injustices to the enslaved people as if they had finally, after all these years, found a champion.” I have never had the arrogance to regard myself as a champion of the enslaved people; but if an esteemed historian goes around talking about “kinder, gentler slavery,” they surely need one.

FOR MORE ON THE CONTROVERSY: Judging Mister J; I Just Wanna Thank President Lincoln; and Judging Mister J (Cont’d)

IMAGE: Lynchburg–negro dance, August 18th 1853 by Lewis Miller (Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)