As the United States was fighting furiously to throw off the shackles of British oppression in the late 1700s, nearly a million people were enslaved in American colonies. That number would reach around four million by the 1860 census. So how did Washington, Jefferson and some of the other founding fathers justify the nation's freedom from England while denying it to enslaved people?
Author and historian Kenneth Davis has written a number of "Don't Know Much About..." books. His latest book is In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives. It sheds light on the lives of five people who were enslaved by four U.S. presidents and gives their perspective on the institution and experience of slavery.
After spending years writing about slavery from the perspective of those doing the enslaving, Davis thought he'd look at it from a different perspective.
"I wanted to flip the narrative at this point and try and write and piece together the story of the other side," Davis told Vermont Edition. "The people who were legally the property of men like Washington, Madison, Jefferson and Jackson."
Listen to the full interview with Davis above.