Parents' Guide to

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan

By Kyle Jackson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 6+

Document inspires vivid, moving portraits of enslaved lives.

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Ashley Bryan's storytelling seamlessly integrates a bounty of historical information into an easily digestible picture book, making it an ideal introduction to a complex subject. The evocative illustrations in Freedom Over Me are superimposed on collages of documents of transactions for purchase of enslaved people, bringing the primary-source documents historians use to construct narratives of enslaved people into view. The nuance, emotion, and soul in each portrayal gives young readers a chance to engage openly and honestly with one of the darkest and most difficult-to-approach chapters in American history.

Free-verse, first-person narratives effectively give personalities, hopes, and dreams to the individuals who were only names with a monetary value noted in an actual 1828 will. For example, an enslaved man named Stephen says, "My owners see me/ as their property,/ following their orders, doing their bidding./ But through my carpentry/ I feel the accomplishment/ and pride/ of a free man." Althea, the plantation laundress whose value is listed in the will as $175, says, "As slaves,/ we do what our owners demand of us./ As human beings,/ our real lives/ are our precious secret."

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