Review of William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad

William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad
by Don Tate; illus. by the author
Primary, Intermediate    Peachtree    40 pp.    g
11/20    978-1-56145-935-3    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-68263-277-2    $8.99

Tate introduces readers to the African American abolitionist known as the Father of the Underground Railroad in this thorough and informative picture-book biography. Before William Still was born, his father had bought his freedom and settled in New Jersey, his mother escaping later, leaving behind two other children. The family grew to fifteen children including William, the last born in 1821. At eight years old, because of his acumen in navigating the woods, neighbors called on William to lead a fugitive slave to safety. The incident portended his longtime commitment to aiding freedom seekers: “The experience defined the rest of his life.” At age twenty-three, Still moved to Philadelphia, where he worked for the Anti-Slavery Society and turned his home into a station on the Underground Railroad. When he encountered his long-lost brother seeking refuge, he was inspired to create records of other freedom seekers and to collect stories of their escapes, hoping to help reunite families; a collection of these important documents and narratives was published in 1872. Tate’s writing style is engaging and accessible. Rich acrylic illustrations are perfectly matched with a poetic narrative that celebrates the subject and conveys the realities of the times. Back matter includes a timeline, an author’s note, and a bibliography.

From the January/February 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Pauletta Brown Bracy
Pauletta Brown Bracy is professor of library science at North Carolina Central University. She is chair of the 2015-2017 Coretta Scott King Book Awards committee and serves on the 2017 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards committee.

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