Paul Jennings was born into slavery in 1799 and came of age in the White House. Fiercely intelligent, as the constant servant in James Madison's study, he absorbed lessons meant for those of high stature. After achieving his own freedom, Jennings endangered it by trying to free others in the greatest-scale-ever-attempted slave escape. He later established himself with a government job, living in the nation's capitol alongside families of ex-slaves of presidents Washington, Jefferson, and Madison, and he authored the first White House memoir. Jennings died in 1874, bequeathing valuable property in Washington, D.C. to two sons.