For Adam's Sake

A Family Saga in Colonial New England

Allegra di Bonaventura (Author)

Logo markA Liveright book


“Incomparably vivid . . . as enthralling a portrait of family life [in colonial New England] as we are likely to have.”—Wall Street Journal

In the tradition of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s classic, A Midwife’s Tale, comes this groundbreaking narrative by one of America’s most promising colonial historians. Joshua Hempstead was a well-respected farmer and tradesman in New London, Connecticut. As his remarkable diary—kept from 1711 until 1758—reveals, he was also a slave owner who owned Adam Jackson for over thirty years. In this engrossing narrative of family life and the slave experience in the colonial North, Allegra di Bonaventura describes the complexity of this master/slave relationship and traces the intertwining stories of two families until the eve of the Revolution. Slavery is often left out of our collective memory of New England’s history, but it was hugely impactful on the central unit of colonial life: the family. In every corner, the lines between slavery and freedom were blurred as families across the social spectrum fought to survive. In this enlightening study, a new portrait of an era emerges.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • April 2014
  • ISBN 978-0-87140-776-4
  • 5.5 × 8.3 in / 480 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide including Canada, but excluding the British Commonwealth.

Endorsements & Reviews

“An extraordinary story about ordinary people in a pre-revolutionary New England family. Among the people are a master and his slave, the only account of such psychological depth I have seen in all the family histories of New England. Impeccably researched, elegantly written, For Adams' Sake is a model of its kind.” — Joseph Ellis, author of Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation

“A fascinating view into the little known world of slavery in the north. . . . . Allegra di Bonaventura’s rich account complicates the traditional narrative of slavery and race in early America.” — Annette Gordon-Reed, author of The Hemingses of Monticello

“Impressively researched and fine-grained. . . . [Her] portrayal of Yankee slavery is acute and sensitive, without being sentimental. . . . In telling the Jacksons’ story, she has recovered from centuries of oblivion people of colonial America’s lowest order, restoring them not just to history, but also to their individuality and humanity. It is a mighty achievement.” — Fergus M. Bordewich, American Scholar

“Di Bonaventura’s achievement is to make the familiar seem strange, turning a topic we thought we knew so much about into something that feels new.” — Eric Herschthal, The Daily Beast

“A work of astonishing ingenuity, intellectual and emotional depth, and (most of all) brilliant writing.” — John Demos, author of The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America

“Achieves an amazing, seemingly impossible conjunction—the best book ever on New England family life and the best book ever on the family context of American slavery, neither pretty—a riveting story and great history based on astounding research.” — Jon Butler, author of Becoming America: The Revolution Before 1776

“Engrossing… This is an important examination of an often neglected aspect of our colonial heritage.” — Booklist

“A rich canvas. . . . A great story; great history.” — William S. McFeely, author of Sapelo’s People: A Long Walk into Freedom

“Your book club will love For Adam's Sake.” — Woody Holton, author of Abigail Adams

“With deep research and scrupulous fidelity to her sources, Di Bonaventura enables us to hear the voices of her subjects and glimpse the rhythms and ruptures that defined a world we thought we had lost.” — Peter Onuf, Senior Research Fellow, Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies

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