Join the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies on Tuesday, September 26th, 2023 from 4-5 p.m. ET for a conversation between John Ragosta, Historian at the ICJS and Gregory May, author of A Madman’s Will: John Randolph, Four Hundred Slaves, and the Mirage of Freedom

This event will begin at 4 p.m. ET in the Reading Room of the Jefferson Library, it will end at 5 p.m. Following the discussion there will be an opportunity to purchase the book and have it signed by the author. 

This Event is FREE; however, registration is required. Register Here. 

About the Book

Few legal cases in American history are as riveting as the controversy surrounding the will of Virginia Senator John Randolph (1773-1833), which – almost inexplicably – freed all 383 of his slaves in one of the largest and most publicized manumissions in American history. So famous is the case that Ta-Nehisi Coates has used it to condemn Randolph’s cousin, Thomas Jefferson, for failing to free his own slaves. With this groundbreaking investigation, historian Gregory May now reveals a more surprising story, showing how madness and scandal shaped John Randolph’s wildly shifting attitudes toward his slaves – and how endemic prejudice in the North ultimately deprived the freedmen of the land Randolph had promised them. Sweeping from the legal spectacle of the contested will through the freedmen’s dramatic flight and horrific reception in Ohio, A Madman’s Will is an extraordinary saga about the alluring promise of freedom and its tragic limitations.


About the Author

Gregory May is the author of Jefferson’s Treasure: How Albert Gallatin Saved the New Nation from Debt. He practiced law in Washington, D.C., and New York for thirty years, and now lives in Virginia.