Elisa Carbone's Stealing Freedom
Book review by Karen Talley
Ages: Middle Grade
This book is historical fiction, based on the true story of Ann Maria Weems and the price she paid for freedom.
Elisa Carbone writes this heartwarming story that begins with an all-too-common event in the lives of slaves: families were torn apart when family members were sold and separated.
Ann Maria was the daughter of John Weems, a free black man. Her father worked for Charles Price, the owner of Ann and the remaining family members. Her father's dream was to purchase the freedom of his wife and children from Price.
The dream was shattered when Price sold Ann Maria's brothers and sent them south.
John Weems was determined to keep the rest of his family together. He solicited the aid of an abolitionist organization, The Vigilance Committee, in New York. They raised money to help slaves buy their freedom and fugitives to move further north.
The Vigilance Committee agreed to help the Weems family purchase their freedom. But Price would only agree to sell Mrs. Weems and her older daughter. Ann Maria would remain with him, as a house slave.
Ann had given up hope of gaining her freedom when she was secretly approached by an abolitionist, Jacob Bigelow. He gave her the opportunity to escape. Although his plan posed serious risks, she was willing to do what was necessary to "steal" her freedom. Drastic times called for drastic measures.
Bigelow moved Ann Maria, under the cover of night, to a safe house, where she was then disguised as a young boy. While waiting to be moved to another stop on the Underground Railroad, Bigelow surprised her with a visit from her parents. Her disguise was so realistic they did not recognize her.
When it was safe for Ann Maria to travel further north, she was passed along to Reverend Freeman, another abolitionist.
Her identity was almost discovered before Ann and the Reverend departed the train station in New York. Ann Maria's quick thinking and courage saved her from capture and Freeman from arrest. They were able to safely continue the last part of their journey to the free soil of Chatham, Canada.
In the end, I cried when Ann Maria was reunited with her aunt and uncle who had escaped years earlier to Canada.
The author did an outstanding job researching the period history of
the book. She included actual details about the Weems family that made
the book more authentic.
Ms. Carbone hooked me in the first chapter. I found it difficult to put the book down until the last page was read
The accounting in the author's notes of what became of family members provides closure for readers like me who always wants more.
This is an excellent book for middle school age children. Stealing Freedom is the epitome of courage and bravery; it should be on the shelf of every school library. A five-star book.
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