JUMP SHIP TO FREEDOM by James Lincoln Collier


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Smoothly told in the first person, though in a style the authors acknowledge is too ""modern"" to have actually been used in 1787, this is the story of Daniel Arabus, a 14-year-old Connecticut slave, and his struggle for freedom from Captain Iver, a merchant ship owner. Daniel's father, since drowned, had served with George Washington {as a substitute for Iver) and been paid in ""soldier's notes"" which may or may not be redeemable, depending on current negotiations in Philadelphia. Because of trouble over the notes--the Captain has stolen them from Daniel's mother and Daniel, though it can't be proved, has stolen them back--the boy is taken on a ship to be sold in the West Indies. But a storm brings them to New York instead and Daniel jumps ship, swims to Bedloe's Island, and finds his way to the famed Fraunces' Tavern in Manhattan. There he meets a sick old Quaker who is involved in negotiating a slavery compromise for the proposed new government. Daniel is to accompany the old man to Philadelphia, but Mr. Fatherscreft dies in Trenton and Daniel must carry the message on to a Connecticut representative (a historical figure and later senator), Mr. William Samuel Johnson. As the compromise would pave the way for the new government, which would then pay off his notes, yet part of the compromise is a fugitive slave law which would have Daniel returned to his master, the lad is faced with a dilemma. (""Oh, it was a puzzle."") But in the end he just can't go back on a promise to a dying man--which prompts Mr. Johnson's ""You know, Daniel, I'm constantly surprised. It's generally said that Africans don't have a true moral sense, the same as whites do."" Daniel's answer, arrived at since the story started and he saw himself a ""dumb nigger,"" is that, ""take the skin off. . . there ain't much difference"" between blacks and whites. Whether or not you believe such conversations, not to mention the bland virtue of Daniel's decision and the benignity of such whites as Mr. Johnson and George Washington, the Colliers do tend to belabor the obvious in Daniel's repetitive mulling-over of situations-as-they-stand and alternatives for action. Similarly, there is something synthetic about their assumption of Daniel's thoughts and feelings. Readers (younger than the publisher's designated 12-up audience) who don't mind having both the racial and historical points and the turns of plot spelled out for them can enjoy the adventure, the well-integrated historical background (especially as experienced in a storm at sea), and the satisfaction of Daniel's ultimate freedom.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1982
ISBN: 0440443237
Publisher: Delacorte