Thursday, January 03, 2008

Roger Wilkins on the Founders and Slavery

Roger Wilkins, a professor at George Mason University, wrote an excellent book (several years ago) on the relationship of America's principal Founding Fathers with slavery. I read his book, Jefferson's Pillow, several years ago - and was deeply impressed with it.

Wilkins, a Pulitzer-winning author and past civil rights (and anti-apartheid) activist, is qualified to address this sensitive subject, and does so in much more mature and reasoned tone than the likes of Howard Zinn.

Wilkins doesn't let the Founders off the hook, but (with the exception of Jefferson) doesn't slam them either. (He does have some strong things to say against Jefferson, while also acknowledging the Virginian's contributions).

Publisher's Weekly sums up Wilkins' approach as follows:

Where others routinely excuse past figures or judge them by present standards, Wilkins exemplifies a subtler, sounder approach. Reaching back to England and Virginia in the 1600s, he briskly illuminates the historical, ideological and socioeconomic contexts that made a burning concern for freedom not just compatible with slavery, but materially and psychologically dependent on it.

Jefferson's Pillow is a great book - definitely worth your checking out.

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