One slave is the poetic voice for those who toil on a cotton plantation and look to the North Star, following the Underground Railroad to freedom.
Shange wrote the poems in response to Brown's paintings and provides a sound stage for not only the many men and women who sought freedom but also those who were fearful of leaving. The dramatic oil paintings open in the stark white of the cotton fields. In the following tableaux, slaves are whipped, run through swamps, barely ahead of trackers and their dogs, and receive help from white abolitionists and Sojourner Truth. One powerful double-page spread shows a runaway hiding under floor boards, with slivers of light coming through. The end of the road finally comes in Michigan, where white snow on ground and trees serves as a beautiful counterpoint to the opening scene. Painter and poet previously collaborated on We Troubled the Waters (2009), and in this volume they have created a focused narrative that is troubling, violent and soul-stirring. In the title poem, the man says “ah may get tired / good Lawd / ah may may be free.”
Inspirational pairings of art and verse to read and recite in tribute to those who walked that perilous road. (Picture book/poetry. 12 & up)