Beverly knows a secret and it’s a big one. It’s really hard not to tell it but he has promised his mama he’ll keep his mouth shut. And Beverly is good at that – keeping his mouth shut – all slaves are good at that. It helps them stay out of trouble.
The secret word rolls around in Beverly’s head though. “Papa.” Even though his Dad is really busy and is gone a lot Beverly lives for when he is around, even though his Dad doesn’t really talk to him much. Beverly can’t call him “Papa” to his face or tell anyone at all who his Dad is, because Beverly’s Dad is Master Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson. Yes, THAT Thomas Jefferson. The one who wrote, “all men are created equal”.
This is the fascinating story of Thomas Jefferson’s children who grew up on Monticello but didn’t live in it. They lived with their Mom in the slave quarters. It isn’t known for sure if this is true, but many scholars think so.
I loved how this story made history more real by putting real people into it. The characters live during a time when slavery was part of life. It’s hard for us to imagine it now. This book reveals a lot about what kind of world that would be – a world where a fair, respected, smart, well-liked man could also own slaves. It’s hard to wrap your head around.
Great, great characters and peek into a complicated piece of history, because even if a man treated his slaves well, they were still slaves. There was still no freedom. The last chapter will put an actual lump in your throat. Author: Kimberly Bradley
Here are some more stories that reveal interesting relationships between free and slave people. These books help us realize that history isn’t just a chain of events, it is about real live people who are hardly ever simple or predictable.
Gee’s Bend is a tiny little place in Alabama on the bend of a river. It isn’t even a town really, just a place with a name. It’s the place where Ludelphia Bennett lives with her family and a few neighbors who are also sharecroppers for Mr. Cobb. Old Mr. Cobb owns the land around Gee’s Bend. The Bennetts and the other familes work the farm and pay their rent with a “share” of the harvest. It’s 1932 and times are really hard. It is the Great Depression and times are tough for everyone, especially those who are alreay dirt poor to begin with, people like the Bennetts and their neighbors.
Ludelphia’s courage starts to shine the day her mom goes into labor. Ludelphia helps her mom deliver the baby. After the birth, Ludelphia’s mom is very, very sick. Her only hope is Doc Nelson, the only doctor around and he’s 40 miles away in Camden. Ludelphia’s only ten but she sets out alone anyway on a dangerous journey for a girl of her time. It’s no small thing for a black child to set out travelling alone, but Ludelphia loves her mama and will do anything to save her.
On her journey Ludelphia meets people outside of Gee’s Bend for the very first time. She sees the wealth and modern ways of a big city. She confronts the difference between superstitian and modern medicine. And she experiences both the kindness and racism of total strangers – strangers whose help she needs in order to save her mother. Author: Irene Latham
Delphine is on an airplane with her little sisters Vonetta and Fern on her way to spend a few weeks in the summer with the Mother she barely remembers. From Brooklyn to Oakland is a long way to go to spend time with someone you don’t even know, even if she is your Mother. But Delphine’s Dad thinks it is a good idea, so the girls go.
Mother is a statement of fact. Cecile Johnson gave birth to us. We came out of Cecile Johnson. In the animal kingdom that makes her out mother. Every mammal on the planet has a mother, dead or alive. Ran off or stayed put. Cecile Johnson – mammal birth giver, alive, an abandoner – is our mother. A statement of fact.
Reading that quote you get a good idea about what Delphine thinks of her Mother and the fact that her Mother just up and left. Delphine’s Mom left the girls when Fern was just a tiny baby and for all that time hasn’t done a single thing to spend any time with the girls or even talk to them on the phone. Cecile, the girls’ Mom, isn’t even very happy when she meets them at the airport. It’s like she’s put out that they’ve come to visit. Once at her house she forbids them from entering her kitchen and sends them out for takeout. During the long summer days she sends them to the park or the neighborhood community center to get them out of the house.
At the beginning of the summer you see Delphine getting to know this woman who is her Mom, and a lot of the time she doesn’t like her very much. She questions her judgement all the time. But as the day goes by Delphine starts to see who Cecile is, besides being the girls’ “mammal birth giver.”
I think when you’re a kid, it’s hard to see grown-ups, especially parents, as real people. It’s really hard to imagine your parents being anyone other than your parents, even though they were kids and grown people with a life before you came along. I liked watching Delphine get to know “Cecile the person” and learn to accept who Cecile really is and not who Delphine wishes her to be. Author: Rita Williams-Garcia 2011 Coretta Scott King Award, 2011 Newbery Honor Book, 2011 Scott O’Dell Prize for Historical Fiction, 2010 National Book Award Finalist
This is the story of Elizabth Keckley, a slave who became a free woman and a business owner as well as the favored dressmake of Mary Todd Lincoln – President Lincoln’s wife.
Her story begins on a plantation in Virginia. Elizabeth was only four years old when she was given the job of taking care of her mistress’s brand new baby. She was so excited to take care of the pretty baby that she rocked the cradle a little too hard and the baby fell out onto the floor. She was whipped for that…a four year-old! And that whipping would not be her last. Elizabeth had a very hard life as a slave. It’s a wonder she even survived, let alone growing up to be a free woman and the owner of her own business.
Elizabeth’s mom was a gifted seamstress and she taught Elizabeth how to sew. Their master would hire Elizabeth out to other ladies in St. Louis who wanted pretty dresses. One of those clients loaned Elizabeth the money to buy her own freedom. Elizabeth moved to Washington DC and was soon sewing dresses for famous wives – Mrs. Robert E. Lee and Mrs. Jefferson Davis. It was only a matter of time before her dresses caught the eye of Mrs. Lincoln.
That’s when the story gets really intersting. It is the tale of two very different women in very different circumstances who manage to carve our a friendship in the oddest of circumstances. Mary Lincoln didn’t just need pretty dresses, she needed a friend.