Alligator-filled swamps, a drowning, beatings, and terror…a realistic picture of what runaway American slaves faced.
In this fact-based historical novella, the narrator, the great-grandson of the woman who told him this oral history, tells of four slaves who escape from a Georgia plantation. Though intending to go north, they run south accidentally when a storm blocks the North Star. When their leader, Gilbert Fields (called “the African”), leads his two daughters, grandbaby, and future son-in-law south, Esau, a former slave living free in a cave, informs them that they can continue in that direction to find free blacks living alongside Seminoles in Florida or go to Mobile, Alabama, where a large group of free blacks lives. Despite the loss of one daughter, fear of capture, and harsh weather and topography, the group makes it to Florida, where they live free until the Trail of Tears forces them to move. Esau articulates one of the book’s salient themes: “Ain’t nobody supposed to be a slave….All God’s people supposed to be free.” Haunting pen-and-ink sketches reminiscent of Feliks Topolski’s illustrations in Arna Bontemps’ Lonesome Boy punctate the novel, alternating with more realistic sketches of Southern flora and fauna.
An informative and well-told story about a little-known aspect of American slavery that needs to be remembered and retold. (Historical fiction. 8-12)