Wednesday, May 4, 2011


It is 1859 in Virginia.  Clotee lives on Belmont Plantation and serves Mas' Henley.  She feels lucky because she doesn't have to work in the fields like many of the slaves on the plantation.  Her job is to attend the lessons Mas' Henley's wife teaches to their two children.

When the weather is warm, Clotee's job is to fan the children as they work on their studies.  The thing is Clotee doesn't simply keep the children cool; she also watches over their shoulders and learns right along with them.  She is learning to read and write, and she uses her knowledge to record events in this diary.

There is one very serious problem.  If Mas' Henley finds out Clotee can read and write, her life could be in danger.  Slaves are not allowed to read and write, and if she is discovered she is sure to suffer a severe beating and possibly worse.  She has heard of slaves caught reading who have been sold into the deep south where life is even more terrible for them.

A new tutor is hired to teach the children, and Clotee begins to suspect that he might not be exactly who he says he is.  When she realizes he knows her secret, she is terrified, but she discovers he isn't going to reveal what he knows.  As her knowledge and vocabulary expand, she learns the mysterious tutor is one of the abolitionists she has heard about, and he might even be involved in something she has heard about called the Underground Railroad.

Part of the Dear America series, A PICTURE OF FREEDOM by Patricia C. McKissack is about one young slave girl's experience as she lives as an orphan on a Virginia plantation at the mercy of an intolerant master.  This work of historical fiction depicts life on the plantation and how the slaves struggled to retain their identity as they battled for simple survival.  McKissack brings this challenging time to life for readers interested in learning more about a piece of our past.

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