Master of the Mountain was selected by Publisher’s Weekly as one of the best books of the Fall 2012 season and as the #1 title in History.

A “meticulous account — Wiencek’s vivid, detailed history casts a new slant on a complex man.”– Publisher’s Weekly: “The Best Books of Fall 2012”

“A well-rendered yet deeply unsettling look behind the illusion of the happy slaves of Monticello. . . . Beautifully constructed reflections and careful sifting of Jefferson’s thoughts and deeds.” — Kirkus, starred review.

“Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1999 for The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White, Wiencek returns to the bloody ground of black/white, master/slave relations that have defined America. . . . Not for the starry-eyed or faint of heart.” — Library JournalCC

Charles Paolino’s blog:

Anthony Steven Lubetski review in Shepherd Express, Milwaukee:

Praise for An Imperfect God, Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History

 “[Wiencek] succeeds in laying bare the monstrous cruelty of the slave system, showing how it stained, corrupted and victimized free and unfree alike. . . . This book should be read by all who are interested in Washington. It must be read by all who wish to understand early America.”

—John Ferling, The Washington Post Book World

“Engaging . . . [An Imperfect God] makes for compelling and troubling reading, especially when it identifies tensions and turning points in Washington’s relations with slaves and with blacks more generally . . . It offers a sensitive, powerful, disquieting, balanced account of one of Washington’s most important legacies—and previously one of the least understood.”

—Jack Rakove, Chicago Tribune

“With admirable dexterity, Wiencek weaves his exploration of Washington’s circuitous career as an emancipator into an account of his own path of discovery. He takes us to remote parts of Virginia, where he interviewed contemporary descendants of both Washington and his slaves. We follow him as he combs Southern archives and visits and revisits national monuments, commemorative parks and historical museums in search of the piece of evidence that might connect otherwise random facts. The world he opens up with this intrepid sleuthing is far greater than the sum of the details he harvested. And mercifully he leaves it to his readers to feel moral outrage without his guidance . . . Perhaps now we are ready to integrate these unpleasant truths into our self-understanding as a people. Books like An Imperfect God show us the way.”

—Joyce Appleby, Los Angeles Times Book Review

“In its argument, its spirit, and its soundness . . . Wiencek’s rich study [shows] how to get the problem of slavery, democracy and the American founding right . . . Wiencek has a gift for elucidating Washington’s personality and inner life in crisp, unpretentious prose. He tells readers how he conducted his research, turning his story into an engaging tale of scholarly discovery. His fresh and direct approach breathes new life into . . . the material”

—Sean Wilentz, The New Republic

“Superb . . . [An] honest and compelling study of Washington and slavery.”

—Gordon S. Wood, The New York Times Book Review

“Wiencek [is] a masterful historian . . . [A] brilliantly written, richly researched book. Wiencek has combed all of the relevant archives, inspected and probed countless documents and records, and explored and sifted through many oral histories. His account of Washington’s life-long involvement with slavery is riveting from beginning to end . . . At last we may be seeing the extent and depth of slavery in American history.”

—William E. Cain, The Boston Globe

“The process of fathoming Washington’s moral evolution is not a simple one . . . [Wiencek] rises to the challenge of turning Washington’s very furtiveness into a source of fascination . . . His final redeeming gesture—leaving a will that freed slaves—cannot be seen as a simple, bold stroke. It makes sense only in the larger, richer context that Mr. Wiencek’s book vividly creates . . . This book offers many glimpses into the ways in which intertwined black and white family histories revealed the monstrousness of slavery-sustaining laws.”

—Janet Maslin, The New York Times


“Wiencek does an admirable job of exploring how and why Washington’s attitude toward slavery changed as it did . . . This gripping story of moral reform adds greatly to our understanding of this most remote of Founders.”

—Alan Pell Crawford, The Wall Street Journal


“The Washington who emerges in this first-rate biography is an all-too-human father of his country. But in the end he looks greater than ever . . . Wiencek’s biography, which never bogs down in politically correct nitpicking, shows how slavery stained almost every aspect of early American life, and we end up respecting Washington because while most Colonials were willing to ignore the evils of slavery, Washington wasn’t.”

—Malcolm Jones, Newsweek

“Emotional and intimate . . . A fine example of another new approach to America’s past . . . Creates a fuller picture of the Founding Fathers and, as important, a more immediate sense of the connection between their times and ours. Wiencek’s down-to-earth techniques expand our range of feeling about the past and make it real.”

—Laura Miller, Salon


“Wiencek’s greatest gift may be his firm alliance [sic: allegiance] to fact over conjecture. His laborious research almost always reveals that the human truth is far more complex and captivating than any historian’s wishful thinking . . . Wiencek’s book shows how deeper insights can be gained by reflecting upon these difficult men in more ambivalent terms . . . He mines the fascinating but neglected facts . . . Wiencek does not simply give us a new view of George Washington; he offers us a new way of looking.”

Virginia Quarterly Review

“In this precisely documented and highly readable work, Henry Wiencek has performed a dual service. He has, without denigrating the contribution of our first chief executive, helped restore him to human dimensions. He has, moreover, brought out in vivid terms the monstrosity, the horror of the human bondage that constitutes the most shameful chapter of our history.”

—Walter Barthold, New York Law Journal

“A model of controlled indignation. Wiencek admires Washington, yet piles detail upon detail about the slave system of which he was a part . . . The results are shocking.”

—Daniel Lazare, The Nation

“Fascinating . . . A compelling investigation into what brought about . . . [Washington’s] final act: the will that set his slaves free when he died . . . [Wiencek] has crafted a portrait of Washington that moves and inspires.”

—Charles Matthews, San Jose Mercury News

“Wiencek gives us a complex Washington, by turns heroic and vacillating, an heir to his time and place who moved toward transcending both . . . Essential reading for anyone interested in the origins of American thinking about political process, states’ rights and the ongoing dilemma of racism.”

—Paul Evans, Book


“A fascinating and insightful work. It is the type of history and biography we need if we are to truly understand the world that gave birth to our country.”

—M. Dion Thompson, The Baltimore Sun

“Thoroughly researched . . . For any reader interested in either George Washington or the issue of slavery, this is very enlightening work.”

—Nola Theiss, Islander


“Engaging . . . A fascinating story of Washington’s evolving posititions on slavery . . . To help us deal constructively with slavery, it’s good to have our thinking disturbed by books like [this].”

—Myron A. Marty, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“This important work, sure to be of compelling interest to anyone concerned with the nation’s origins, its founders and history of race slavery, is the first extended history of its subject . . . What will surely gain this book widest notice is Wiencek’s careful evaluation of the evidence that Washington himself may have fathered the child of a slave . . . the book stands out for depicting Washington’s deep moral struggle with slavery and his ‘gradual moral transfiguration’ after watching some young slaves raffled off . . . This work of stylish scholarship and genealogical investigationmakes Washington an even greater and more human figure than he seemed before.”

Publishers Weekly, starred review

“The book’s real achievement is to depict in grisly anecdotal detail the moral abomination that was plantation life while simultaneously imagining how such an admirable figure as Washington could have been for so long a cheerfully prosperous participant before his graduation to abolitionism . . . Highly recommended.”

Library Journal

Praise for The Hairstons

“One would have to be hard-hearted indeed not to be moved by the big story this book tells . . . or by the little stories it tells of individual Hairstons whose lives reveal so much about what it is to be an American. It is scrupulous and honest in all respects, and a powerful testament to what this country, at its best, can be.” —Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post Book World

The Hairstons is an epic . . . Enthralling . . . Wiencek creates a profound under-standing of slavery, Jim Crow, and the civil rights movement. He uses documents, sometimes centuries old, to bring these Hairstons vividly to life.” —Howard Kissel

“The central narrative unravels the 150-year-old mystery of a lost child, a story as brutal and romantic as anything by Faulkner . . . A moving storyteller, Wiencek largely resists the temptation to moralize. Not since Mary Chestnut’s Civil War has nonfiction about the South been as compelling as fiction.” —Virginia Donelson, Time

“A moving and timely story of that which separates and binds black and white America . . . [Wiencek] helps us understand our common past and present.” —Julian Bond

“Excellent . . . As good a book as you can find about the South’s original sin and all that followed it . . . Wiencek mines [his] sources to take us from the Revolutionary War period to the civil rights era and beyond, relating amazing family stories while unraveling mysteries lost to time.” —Howard Owen, The News & Observer

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