Published by Peachtree Publishing Company
Summary: When William Still’s mother escaped from slavery, she was forced to leave her two sons behind. She and her husband reunited in New Jersey, and they went on to have fifteen children, including William, the youngest, born in 1821. When William was 23, he moved to Philadelphia, where he got a job as an office clerk at the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society. He worked his way up to manager, and helped freedom-seekers by making his home a stop on the Underground Railroad. One day a middle-aged man came to the office. When William heard his story, he realized the man was his long-lost brother, Peter. This inspired William to start recording the stories of every person who came through the office, thinking these records might help reunite other families. When the Fugitive Slave Act was passed, William’s stories became evidence of crimes, and he was forced to hide them in a cemetery vault. After the Civil War, he published many of the stories in his book, The Under Ground Rail Road. Includes a timeline, author’s note, and bibliography. 40 pages; grades 2-5.
Pros: According to the author’s note, when white writers told the story of the Underground Railroad, they often made themselves heroes and left out the work of many of the black people. This book does a fabulous job of rectifying that for William Still, who was a tireless worker for many years. Don Tate has been a busy man this year, creating both the text and beautiful illustrations for this book, as well as the pictures for Swish!, the recent book about the Harlem Globetrotters.
Cons: I was curious as to what happened to all the papers Sill was forced to hide in the cemetery vault. Did they survive? Are they still around today? There didn’t seem to be an answer in either the story or the author’s note.