Hello, friends! Our book today is William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad by Don Tate, a fascinating look at a lesser-known hero in the fight against slavery.
When William Still’s parents escaped slavery before he was born, they were forced by circumstance to leave their two oldest sons behind. Years later, when working as a clerk for the Anti-Slavery Society in Philadelphia, Still was shocked to find that a recently arrived freedom-seeking runaway was one of his long-lost older brothers. Inspired to help reunite other families torn apart by slavery, William began meticulously recording the stories of the former slaves he encountered through his work or in his home (which he had opened as a station on the Underground Railroad). Risking the wrath of slave owners, slave “catchers”, and eventually the law, William continued to record the stories of the people he helped usher to freedom, hoping to bring broken families back together, and making sure the world never forgot the horrors of slavery, nor the triumphs of those who defied it to live free.
Astounding. Still is, even by the author’s admission in the afterward, a relatively obscure figure in African-American history, despite the pivotal role he played in helping and recording the lives of those who had risked everything for the chance at freedom. Tate does an incredible job of making a very heavy subject comprehensible for young readers, simplifying where necessary without blunting the heartbreaking realities of life as a black person in that era – whether as a slave or free in the racist North. Make no mistake: this is a picture book for older, middle-grade bookworms, both in tone and length. The rich, dynamic artwork pairs well with the sharp and passionate prose, taking readers on a journey through Still’s family history, to his early years, to his years as an abolitionist, to his post-Civil War years as a businessman, author, and activist. JJ was a bit young for the length of the story, but she did enjoy the artwork immensely. This is an amazing tribute to an inspiring and often-overlooked American hero, and we recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!
(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)