Author: Paul Jennings

PRIMARY DOCUMENT

A Colored Man’s Reminiscences of James Madison by Paul Jennings (1865)

In A Colored Man’s Reminiscences of James Madison, published as a magazine article in 1863 and in book form two years later, Paul Jennings relates his experiences as the fourth president‘s enslaved footman in the White House. The White House Historical Association has described it as “the first memoir about the White House by one who had lived there.” The preface is written by John Brooks Russell, who helped the literate Jennings write it and submit it for publication to the Historical Magazine and Notes and Queries Concerning the Antiquities, History and Biography of America. This narrative, along with other slave narratives, offer a composite portrait of authors’ self-styled personal stories. The amanuensis’ interests, lived experiences, and editing choices, as well as their social relations and expectations shaped the relationship and conversation with the authors. Although the narratives aren’t unmediated autobiographies, they are no less authentic and are just as fruitful a source for reconstructing historical experience.