Review of Seeking Freedom: The Untold Story of Fortress Monroe and the Ending of Slavery in America

Seeking Freedom: The Untold Story of Fortress Monroe and the Ending of Slavery in America
by Selene Castrovilla; illus. by E. B. Lewis
Primary, Intermediate    Calkins/Astra    40 pp.    g
1/22    978-1-63592-582-1-1    $18.99

A true story from the Civil War offers insight into a little-known aspect of ­African American history. In 1861 ­Virginia, a man named George Scott, who had escaped enslavement, overhears how field hands had rowed to the nearby Fortress Monroe seeking refuge — and Union soldiers had not returned them to captivity. Scott joins the flow of people seeking freedom, known as “contrabands.” At the fortress, he tells Major General Benjamin Franklin Butler that he knows the location of some ­Confederates, and Butler sends him on a reconnaissance mission. His bravery and heroism prompt Butler to seek freedom for Scott and the others, writing, “These contrabands had been property, but since they had been abandoned, they were now simply men, women, and children…These human beings must be given the free enjoyment of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Castrovilla’s straightforward narrative style makes the events readily accessible to readers who are interested in this complex era of American history. Lewis’s atmospheric watercolors convey themes of urgency and humanity. Comprehensive back matter includes additional information about contrabands, Butler, Scott, and Fort Monroe; archival photographs; and a bibliography.

From the January/February 2022 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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