Jon Kukla

Patrick Henry: Champion of Liberty

In this lively biography, Kukla (Mr. Jefferson's Women), former director of Red Hill Patrick Henry National Memorial, recovers Patrick Henry's foundational role in shaping the American independence movement and, ultimately, the young republic itself. Henry is best known today as an impassioned orator, but Kukla looks beyond the speeches to develop a fuller portrait of Henry as an attorney, statesman, landowner, and society man, highlighting his contributions to key debates around such issues as the Stamp Act and westward expansion. In the book's descriptions of Henry, including those of his early eloquence in the courtroom, his work on the Declaration of Rights, and his later service as the governor of Virginia, he emerges as a passionate and civic-minded thinker who remained attuned to the needs and concerns of everyday people throughout his career. Drawing on commentary from such contemporaries as Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, Kukla depicts Henry against the backdrop of 18th-century American life, addressing Henry's views on slavery, emergent Southern identity, and international trade as well as his resistance toward British rule. Kukla's fluid prose and careful attention to detail ensure that this biography will appeal to both general readers interested in the founding fathers and scholars interested in learning more about the development of the early republic. 

- Stephen Hanselman, LevelFiveMedia. (July 2017)



Jon Kukla’s books embody his personal goal of writing first-rate historical scholarship for a general readership – books, as one scholar put it, “that working historians have to read and the general public want to read.” Born in Wisconsin, Jon Kukla did his undergraduate work at Carthage College and took his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, where he focused on American, British, and Canadian history. He directed research and publishing at the Library of Virginia in the 1970s and 80s, directed the Historic New Orleans Collection in the 1990s; and from 2000 to 2007 directed Red Hill–The Patrick Henry National Memorial in Charlotte County, Virginia. Kukla has enjoyed research fellowships at the British Museum, the Virginia Historical Society, and the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello. A frequent speaker at programs for teachers since the 1980s and a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians, Kukla was elected to membership in the prestigious American Antiquarian Society in 2006. He now lives and writes in Richmond, Virginia.