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Jefferson's Pillow

Roger Wilkins explores the lives of America's founding fathers, focusing on how race and slavery still impede progress. Wilkins argues that by accepting outmoded versions of history, we eliminate the complexity that makes these men human and their accomplishments accessible to all. JEFFERSON'S PILLOW challenges Americans to embrace, discuss, and understand a history that is more than black and white, good and evil, victim and oppressor.
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About the Author

Roger Wilkins, currently the Clarence J. Robinson Professor of History at George Mason University, was cited in the 1972 Pulitzer Prize award to The Washington Post for his coverage of Watergate. He serves on the school board of the District of Columbia and lives in Washington, D.C.


An extraordinarily thoughtful and illuminating meditation on American history. --Ira Berlin, The New York Times Book Review "We are obliged to judge because we are obliged to do better; to probe the flaws of our predecessors is to engage not in vindictive finger-pointing but to resist hubris and complacency in our own time. Wilkins' book has made a mirror of the past in which we glimpse our own shortcomings -and perhaps even the means for transcending them." --Philip Connors, In These Times "Wilkins makes a case for his opinions in sentences that enchant and inform. In its persuasive blend of logic and lyricism, Wilkins's language at its most potent is positively . . . Jeffersonian." --Jabari Asim, Washington Post Book World "With a sense of genuine curiosity Wilkins tried to avoid either condemning the founders too easily by modern standards or excusing too easily the contradictions of their slave ownership. Instead, by exploring the culture and atmosphere in which they grew up, he discovered how much slavery was an integral part of the Virginia society that enabled the founders to create the recipe for modern rights, equality and democracy." --Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune "Wilkins, who describes himself as a 'deeply committed American, ' is never less than a patriot here; someone indifferent about America could not write such a thoughtful book. He demythologizes the Founding Fathers, yet expands their greatness by placing it within the context of the times, as well as their flawed humanity."--Boston Globe "When the Founding Fathers were deciding whether to risk their lives and fortunes for their ideals, Benjamin Franklin remarked: 'We must all indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall hang separately.' In the years after their bold gamble for freedom, the hangman's noose played a far darker role in our republic, becoming the lynch mob's weapon of choice for denying African-Americans their inalienable rights. Liberty and freedom, repression and racism, these warring yet braided strands form the Gordian knot of the American experience: A land of visionary light entwined in the darkest recesses of human cruelty. Now comes Roger Wilkins like a modern-day Alexander to cut this knot." --J. Peder Zane, Raleigh News and Observer "Roger Wilkins is one of our most gifted social commentators. In Jefferson's Pillow, he explores with great eloquence and passion the ultimate contradiction of our society-between being a free American, a descendant of slavery, and the beneficiary of those who went before him." --David Halberstam, author of War in a Time of Peace

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