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First Family: A Conversation with Historians Cassandra A. Good & Alexis Coe (virtual)

Thursday, June 8, 2023 at 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Join us for a virtual event with Award-winning historian Cassandra A. Good, in conversation with historian Alexis Coe, to celebrate the release of Good’s new book, First Family. 

Award-winning historian Cassandra A. Good shows how the outspoken stepgrandchildren of George Washington played an overlooked but important role in the development of American society and politics from the Revolution to the Civil War.

While it’s widely known in America that George and Martha Washington never had children of their own, few are aware that they raised numerous children together. In First Family, we see Washington as a father figure, as well as meet the children he helped raise and trace their complicated roles in American history.

The children of Martha Washington’s son by her first marriage—Eliza, Patty, Nelly and Wash Custis—were born into life in the public eye. Raised in the country’s first “first family,” they remained well-known as Washington’s family and keepers of his legacy throughout their lives. By turns petty and powerful, glamorous and cruel, the Custises used Washington as a means to enhance their own power and status. As enslavers committed to the American empire, the Custis family embodied the failures of the American experiment that finally exploded into civil war—all the while being celebrities in a soap opera of their own making.

First Family brings new focus and attention to this surprisingly neglected aspect of George Washington’s life and legacy. As the country grapples with concerns about political dynasties and the public role of presidential families, the saga of Washington’s family offers a human story of historical precedent.

This compelling narrative of the Custis family and its efforts to shape the historical reputation of George Washington reveals how their continued enslavement of Black laborers betrayed the Revolution’s promise of liberty. Rather than follow Washington’s example of emancipation, the grandchildren of Martha Washington variously supported expatriation to Africa, the hiring out of enslaved people, and forced relocation to the Deep South in their failed efforts to reconcile slavery with their vision for America. Good shows how the Custises’ reluctance to end slavery and their determination to be political players paralleled the nation’s descent into sectional crisis. This is a fascinating study of the impact of slavery on contests over national memory and political influence.” –Bruce Ragsdale, author of Washington at the Plow: The Founder Farmer and the Question of Slavery

Cassandra Good is a writer and historian focused on gender and politics in early America. She is an associate professor of history at Marymount University and the author of the prize-winning FOUNDING FRIENDSHIPS: Friendships Between Men and Women in the Early American Republic, (Oxford University Press, 2015). She has written for Smithsonian.comMental FlossThe Atlantic, and Slate.

Alexis Coe is a presidential historian, and the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of You Never Forget Your First: A  Biography of George Washington and Alice+Freda Forever. She’s working on a book about John F. Kennedy. Alexis was a consulting producer on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s George Washington series on the History Channel and hosted the podcasts No Man’s Land and Presidents Are People Too! from Audible. She regularly appears on CNN, the History Channel, C-SPAN, and CBS, and she’s contributed to the New Yorker, the New York Times’ opinion section, the New York Times Magazine, the New Republic,  the Paris Review, and many others. Alexis was a project-based oral historian at the Brooklyn Historical Society and later served as a  Research Curator in the Exhibitions Department at the New York Public  Library in Bryant Park.

This event is co-sponsored by the Avon Library and Avon Historical Society.

Please register; Zoom links will be sent out before the event.


Thursday, June 8, 2023
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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