First Family

Coming soon! Release date: June 6, 2023

Stay tuned for announcements about public talks and media.

First Family gives us a front row seat to the drama and tensions of a new nation.”—Catherine Kerrison, author of Jefferson’s Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America


“To a growing collection of Founding Family biographies comes Cassandra Good’s elaborately detailed account of the Custis family, the step-grandchildren of George Washington. Spanning the decades between the Revolution and the Civil War, First Family gives us a front-row seat to the drama and tensions of a new nation struggling to define the meaning of freedom and citizenship. Opportunistic Custises seize every occasion to trumpet their association with Washington, boosting their social profile, while his actual blood relatives shy away from the spotlight. Meanwhile, the children George Washington Parke Custis had with enslaved women did not even enter the Custises’ calculus of family. With her exhaustive research and vibrant storytelling, Good has brought us into the intimacy of Washington’s adopted family circle, inviting us to consider who constitutes ‘family,’ and the implications of that very important question for claims of citizenship, in both the Custises’ day and our own.”—Catherine Kerrison, author of Jefferson’s Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America

“Cassandra Good blends deep historical research with her gifts as a storyteller to recover the legacy of George Washington and the powerful role his family played in preserving his memory. First Family delivers new and important insights on the complexities of kinship and the creation of political dynasties in American history.”—Tamika Y. Nunley, award winning author of At the Threshold of Liberty: Women, Slavery, and Shifting Identities in Washington, D.C.

“Using an impressive range of sources and with vivid storytelling, Cassandra Good views issues of history, memory, class, and race and slavery through the experience of the ‘first’ (and arguably the most famous) American family.  Analyzing the kin network created by George and Martha Washington, Good illumines the complexity in the very definition of ‘family’ and American identity. First Family is an important entry in the new historical re-examination of the role of ‘blood family’ in what we tell ourselves about the past.”—Catherine Allgor, author of A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation

“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

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