Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and Her Secret School by Janet Halfmann, illustrated by London Ladd

Published by Lee and Low

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Summary:  As a young child working in the master’s house, Lilly Ann Cox was sometimes included in games of school with the other children.  She learned how to read and write, and enjoyed teaching other slaves when the master’s family went visiting on Sundays.  When the master died, Lilly was sold to a plantation in Mississippi, where she was forced to work in the cotton fields, often beaten for not being able to keep up.  When she became ill, she was moved into the kitchen.  On her trips to the market, Lilly discovered an abandoned cabin, and eventually opened a school there.  Slaves would sneak out in the middle of the night.  The penalty if they were caught was 39 lashes with a whip; however, when they were finally found out seven years later, they were miraculously allowed to keep the school going with no punishment.  After the Civil War, Lilly married and raised three children, while continuing her career as a teacher.  An afterword describes her work in greater detail and how it positively influenced her descendants, including great-grandson Charles C. Diggs, Jr., who became a Congressman and helped found the Congressional Black Caucus.  40 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  A fascinating story about one woman’s courage to improve the lives of others that had an impact for generations after her.  The acrylic paintings nicely illustrate Lilly’s story.

Cons:  Be prepared to answer questions about Lilly’s difficult days working in the cotton fields of Mississippi.

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