A Madman's Will: John Randolph, Four Hundred Slaves, and the Mirage of Freedom


Product Details

$30.00  $27.90
Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publish Date
6.37 X 9.25 X 1.38 inches | 1.54 pounds

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About the Author

Gregory May is the author of Jefferson's Treasure: How Albert Gallatin Saved the New Nation from Debt. He practiced law in Washington, DC, and New York for thirty years, and now lives in Virginia.


Lawyer-turned-historian May (Jefferson's Treasure) offers a fascinating account of Virginia senator John Randolph's posthumous efforts to free nearly 400 enslaved people and provide for their resettlement . . . May lucidly untangles the legal proceedings and draws vivid character sketches of Randolph and others, while building an irrefutable case that freedom is only the first step to equality. This is history at its finest.--Publishers Weekly, starred review
Compelling, meticulously documented and beautifully written . . . May's account shows that 'freedom' of any kind was virtually impossible for Black people in the United States in the early 1800s, no matter how carefully planned. This important book should be of interest to a wide range of readers interested in American history.--Roger Bishop, BookPage, starred review
[A]n invaluable narrative that sheds light on present-day struggles for racial justice and debates about reparations.--John Rowen "Booklist"
May does a good job of pointing out the contradictions of the law in both free and slave states. He also paints a vivid portrait of Randolph himself, a man who, while privately opposed to slavery, was not shy about building his fortune on the backs of enslaved people and whose liberation was less than pure . . . A twisty story that illuminates the elaborate legal system built to defend slavery and silence its discontents.-- "Kirkus Reviews"
Eye-opening and vigorously researched . . . May cogently reveals how white supremacy was not restricted to the South but permeated the nation, depicting a culture of fear and resentment around free Black settlement . . . Ultimately, May shows how such deprivations have lasting, generational consequences, illuminating inequities that persist to this day.--Ilyon Woo "New York Times Book Review"