Monday, November 21, 2011

Janie's Freedom: African-Americans in the Aftermath of the Civil War

The South was a turbulent place after the Civil War ended. The slaves were free from slavery, but not necessarily from trouble. Many white men resented having to free their slaves, so life was still hard for a black person in the South. Many of the freed slaves left the South and traveled to the North to find work and greater acceptance.

Janie is one such slave. It’s been two years since the end of the war. She is still living at Rubyhill, a plantation that was mostly burnt when Sherman’s troops came through. She has been raised by Aunty Mil, an elderly, blind slave on the plantation who has treated Janie like her grandchild. Janie was taken away from her parents when she was five and sold to Rubyhill.

Aunty Mil has taught Janie about God. When Aunty Mil feels it is about her time to “go to Heaven” she encourages Janie to leave the south and head North for a better life. The Master of the plantation is dead and his widow is leaving to join her family in Philadelphia. Her parting instructions to her former slaves are: “Stay at Rubyhill as long as you like. Take whatever you can use from the house or from anywhere else on the land. My men won’t be coming back. Neither will I. May God bless you all and keep you safe.”

After the departure of Miz Laura, Janie and four other young form plantation slaves decide to leave “home” and strike out for Chicago. Janie has always wondered what happened to her parents and hopes someday to be reunited with them. The journey to the North is not easy, and the former slaves must trust in God to help them through to a better life.

Janie’s Freedom: African-Americans in the Aftermath of the Civil War, written by Callie Smith Grant, is told from two perspectives, that of Janie herself and that of Annie, Janie’s mother. Both characters tell their stories of how they were separated from their family members and for their hopes to be reunited.

What I Like: I like historical fiction. You get a good sense of what it was like for former slaves living during this time period. Janie’s character is based on a composite of former female slaves who still lived in the South after the War.

What I Dislike: Nothing.

Overall Rating: Excellent.

Age Appeal: 8-12.

Publisher Info: Barbour Publishing, 2006; ISBN: 9781597890861; 144 pages, Paperback, $4.99.

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Special Info: This book is part of the publisher’s Sisters in Time series.

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