Monday, February 20, 2017

MMGM: Answering the Cry for Freedom

Today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday pick

Celebrate George Washington's birthday by reading American Revolutionary history.

Answering the Cry for Freedom:
Stories of African Americans and the American Revolution
Answering the Cry for Freedom
Written by Gretchen Woefle
Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Calkins Creek, 2016
Ages 9-12, 240 pages, 1040L

History, Slavery, Revolutionary War, Biography

In 1775, when the American Revolution began and colonists took up arms to free themselves from British rule, slavery existed in every one of the thirteen colonies. In 1776, when the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, declaring that “all men” were entitled to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” they didn’t really mean everyone. The American Patriots did not fight to give life, liberty, and basic civil rights to five hundred thousand African Americans enslaved in the North and South. Yet African Americans living in Boston, where Patriot passions blazed, and those living on isolated southern plantations heard talk about liberty and equality.

And those ideas were as contagious as smallpox.

In 1775 and again in 1779, the British issued a proclamation offering freedom to slaves owned by Patriots. Hundreds, then thousands of men, women, and children fled to British army territory—and freedom. Sixty thousand African Americans became Black Loyalists—loyal to Great Britain—because this was their best chance for freedom.

George Washington understood their choice. He wrote: “Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.” Among African Americans, the “liberty plant” took root in many places, in many ways. Most slaves in the American colonies did not flee to the British during the Revolution. But they sought freedom in other ways: by joining the Continental army, by buying their freedom from their owners, and by running away. Then came their struggle for equality.

This book tells the story of a hidden chapter of the American Revolution: how African Americans answered the Revolution’s cry for freedom...

Agrippa Hull
Jarena Lee

Even as American Patriots fought for independence from British rule during the Revolutionary War, oppressive conditions remained in place for the thousands of enslaved and free African Americans living in this country. But African Americans took up their own fight for freedom by joining the British and American armies; preaching, speaking out, and writing about the evils of slavery; and establishing settlements in Nova Scotia and Africa. The thirteen stories featured in this collection spotlight charismatic individuals who answered the cry for freedom, focusing on the choices they made and how they changed America both then and now. Includes individual bibliographies and timelines, author note, and source notes
— from the publisher's website
Includes stories of Boston King, Agrippa Hull, James Armistead Lafayette, Phyllis Wheatley, Mumbet Freeman, Prince Hall, Mary Perth, Ona Judge, Sally Hemmings, Paul Cuffe, John Kizell, Richard Allen, and Jarena Lee.  Standard back matter completes the collection.

This book features important figures in history presented with striking honesty. The text is readable, enjoyable, educational. The author makes the people come alive, though the facts about them are limited. She delves into their motives and allows us to view a more comprehensive picture of early America. I had of course heard of Oney Judge and James Lafayette, but Paul Cuffe and John Kinzell were completely new to me. I appreciated the way Woefle integrated the biographical facts into the setting, grounding her portraits and making them absolutely relatable to her audience. While I definitely recommend this book for the classroom, I am sure the engaging style will appeal to recreational readers as well.

 1. If you enjoyed Answering the Cry for Freedom, you may like Gretchen's historical picture books: Write on Mercy!: The Secret Life of Mercy Otis Warren and Mumbet's Declaration of Independence.

Write On, Mercy!,
by Gretchen Woefle and Alexandra Wallner
Mumbet's Declaration of Independence,
by Gretchen Woefle and Alix Delinois
2. To learn more about the Black Loyalists, many of whom emigrated to Nova Scotia after the war, try these links: BlackLoyalist, BlackLoyalistHeritageCenter,

To read more about a full-spectrum Revolutionary War, visit Africans in America, The National Parks Service, or

You'll find a few more biographies on the American Thinker  website.

3. Other MMGM reviewers recommend
The Seeds ofAmerica trilogy by Laurie Halse Anderson, Covers by Chris Silas Neal.

Chains, book #1
Reviewed by Sue
and Joanne
Forge, book #2
Reviewed by Joanne,
Patricia, and
 Marsh and Emiline
Reviewed by Karen
and Patricia
The Underground Abductor,
by Nathan Hale
Reviewed by Aeicha
Shackles from the Deep,
by Michael H. Cottman,
Reviewed by Greg
The Slave Dancer, by Paula Fox
Cover Art by Wendy Popp
Reviewed by Pam

4. Calkins Creek, an imprint of Boyd's Mill Press, offers an teacher's guide to accompany the book. I've copied the link to the PDF from their website.

5. For more abolitionists, trailblazers, and poets...

 of Olaudah Equiano
The truth about
Sojourner Truth
Collected writings
 of Phyllis Wheatley

Have you reviewed a Marvelous Middle Grade Book along this theme? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!

Check out all the Marvelous Middle Grade Monday recommendations for February 20, 2017.

MMGM started way back in 2010 by Shannon Messenger, author of Keeper of Lost Cities. Each week, participating bloggers review our favorite books for ages 8-12. Why not join us?


  1. Thanks for sharing this title I had not come across before. It would be a good companion to SHACKLES FROM THE DEEP.

    1. Thanks. Excellent suggestion! I've added the link above.

  2. I have not seen this book before. It sounds like a beautiful and insightful collection of true stories. Look forward to reading this book! And, I like that it tells Three of us are on the same wave length today with our reviews. Thanks for the mention!

    1. Plus I'm researching for a new novel, so these books are a great help. Thanks for your faithful encouragement.

  3. This sounds like a story that needed to be told, and was told well. Especially being brutally honest,that is usually a good sign in historical type books. Thanks for sharing and for the link back! :D

    1. My pleasure. I love that books like this are being published and am always happy to spread the word.

  4. Thanks for recommending such great books about American history! I will look into these. Thanks for the recommendation!
    - Violet

    1. Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy them.

  5. What a timely review for George Washington's Birthday! And a very thorough review too, I might add. Thanks for linking to my reviews. Nice of you. I have a lot to learn on this subject; I've only heard of four of those thirteen people in the book.

    1. The revolutionary period is one of my favorite periods in history. I am always learning something new, and I think there are many lessons we as Americans could glean from closer study. Thanks for the support.

  6. Such fascinating stories! Thanks for letting us know.

    1. I hope you have a chance to read it. THanks for stopping by.

  7. Great to see this book featured--sounds like a fascinating tale!

    1. The book is both well done and much neede. It is a great read. Thanks.


Thank-you for taking time to share your thoughts!