In Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life, Ashley Bryan created a treasure of a book that deeply moves the heart, informs and influences our humanity. Following the January publication of Teaching Hard History: American Slavery by the Southern Poverty Law Center, multiple articles looked into the need for students to learn more about the experience of slavery. Bryan’s book, which appeals to ages 11 and up, helps accomplish this.
In the author’s note at the end of the book, Bryan describes how a slave-related document moved him. It was an estate appraisal from 1828. The document listed the names, prices and genders of eleven slaves who went up for sale along with cows, hogs and cotton. Taking that tiny bit of information, Bryan brings each of the eleven to life by imagining their faces, lives, skills, relationships, labors as well as their dreams.
Each slave has four pages with first an introduction in free verse in the voice of the slave accompanied by a portrait. The next two pages focus on each person’s dreams and hopes with another free verse and an illustration. The vividly colored portraits are distinctive and haunting. They tell of how their years as slaves on the estate made it prosperous, but once the owner dies, each of them will be sold, separating wives from husbands, children from parents and friends from friends.
After becoming aware of each of their stories, the reader is haunted by their words and faces. Bryan backs his portrait of each slave with primary source documents from the period. The endpapers also feature primary source document from the period. -Recommended by Marilyn Carpenter, Professor Emeritus, Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA
Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
PubDate: September 13, 2016
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