Roger Wilkins is a professor of history at George Mason University. He was cited in the 1972 Pulitzer Prize award to The Washington Post for his coverage of Watergate. The following is a short excerpt from his book Jefferson's Pillow: The Founding Fathers and the Dilemma of Black Patriotism. His book examines the founding fathers and their contradictory notions of independence and slavery in the newly-formed United States.
We Americans have a wonderful political legacy that is, in part, the work of people who owned people very much like me. It is possible that some of those they owned were among my ancestors. The lives of these founders and their characters were indelibly stained by that fact, though the heinousness of the crime may be relieved a bit by the fact that they were born into an existence anchored in slavery.