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Extended Audio Sample An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America, by Henry Wiencek Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (256 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Henry Wiencek Narrator: Rick Adamson Publisher: Macmillan Audio Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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A major new biography of Washington, and the first to explore his engagement with American slavery.

When George Washington wrote his will, he made the startling decision to set his slaves free; earlier he had said that holding slaves was his “only unavoidable subject of regret.” In this groundbreaking work, Henry Wiencek explores the founding father’s engagement with slavery at every stage of his life—as a Virginia planter, soldier, politician, president, and statesman.

Washington was born and raised among blacks and mixed-race people; he and his wife had blood ties to the slave community. Yet as a young man he bought and sold slaves without scruple, even raffled off children to collect debts (an incident ignored by earlier biographers). Then, on the Revolutionary battlefields where he commanded both black and white troops, Washington’s attitudes began to change.

Wiencek’s revelatory narrative, based on a meticulous examination of private papers, court records, and the voluminous Washington archives, documents for the first time the moral transformation culminating in Washington’s determination to emancipate his slaves. He acted too late to keep the new republic from perpetuating slavery, but his repentance was genuine. And it was perhaps related to the possibility that a slave named West Ford was the son of George and a woman named Venus; Wiencek has new evidence that this might indeed be true.

George Washington’s heroic stature as Father of Our Country is not diminished in this superb, nuanced portrait: now we see Washington in full as a man of his time and ahead of his time.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “The process of fathoming Washington's moral evolution is not a simple one…[Wiencek] rises to the challenge.”

    New York Times

  • “[An Imperfect God] succeeds in laying bare the monstrous cruelty of the slave system, showing how it stained, corrupted and victimized free and unfree alike. He chronicles not only the indignities and horrors imposed upon those in bondage, but shows how slavery destroyed opportunities for free craftsmen and how slaveowners lived anxiously under the shadow of potential slave insurrections.”

    Washington Post

  • “[An] important work, sure to be of compelling interest to anyone concerned with the nation’s origins, its founders and its history of race slavery…This work of stylish scholarship and genealogical investigation makes Washington an even greater and more human figure than he has seemed before.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • Winner of the 2003 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Kerry | 1/18/2014

    " Read this quite some time ago it was an interesting look at the promise between George Washington and Martha Washington to release their slaves upon his death. Looks into their treatment of their slaves and slavery overall...photos of the property as well as slave quarters. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Cameron Rice | 1/8/2014

    " Truly fascinating look at not just Washington but many of the other founders, showing these men through great were flawed, and how Washington came to find slavery "repugnant" "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Carrie | 1/2/2014

    " I really liked this book....I only got half way through because I had sick kids and had to return it to the library. However, it is on my list of to complete this next year. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Vance | 12/29/2013

    " An interesting account of Washington's relations with his slaves and his conflicted feelings about slavery. "

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