An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America
by Henry Wiencek
Read: Oct. 13-22, 2018
Blurb: In this groundbreaking work, Henry Wiencek explores the first president’s life, his work, and his engagement with slavery. Born and raised among blacks and mixed-race people, Washington 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. Then, on the Revolutionary battlefields where he commanded both black and white troops, Washington’s attitudes began to change. This revelatory narrative documents for the first time the moral transformation that led to his decision – unique among the Founding Fathers – to emancipate his own slaves. Washington’s heroic stature as Father of Our Country is upheld in this superb portrait: now we see him in full as a man of his time and ahead of his time.
Review: Wow, can I just say that this was a really enjoyable read! It may be non-fiction and dealing with a pretty heavy subject matter, but it read so fast and was so good that I hardly even noticed… I was so drawn into it!
Now with that being said, I have to say that I’m not entirely sure that Mr. Wiencek completely hit the mark on what he was trying to accomplish in this book. Reading the blurb I went into this book thinking that he was really going to unravel George Washington and show a little bit more than what I had read in previous books. To some extent he certainly did accomplish that. However, there were multiple places that I felt like I could have been reading about slavery in general, not necessarily slavery as it related to George Washington.
I have never made any type of serious study into slavery and so a lot of things that I read in this book were just gut wrenching to me. I mean, I’m aware of the overall aspect of slavery as a whole, but there were a lot of things that I really didn’t know. It proved to be quite a difficult read at times. To think that people could actually treat other human beings in the manner that they did was just unfathomable to me. I still shudder at some of the stories and descriptions in this book.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s eye-opening and quite informative. If you’re looking for a basic overview of slavery during George Washington’s time, I feel like this is as good a place as any to start. I think that it’s a good place for people interested in learning more than just the basics of George Washington to learn some new information as well. It has definitely piqued my interest in studying more about slavery as a whole in the future.