Seeking Freedom: The Untold Story of Fortress Monroe and the Ending of Slavery in America by Selene Castrovilla, illustrated by E. B. Lewis

Published by Calkins Creek

Seeking Freedom: The Untold Story of Fortress Monroe and the Ending of  Slavery in America: Castrovilla, Selene, Lewis, E. B.: 9781635925821:  Books

Summary:  May 26, 1861: George Scott, living in a cave in the woods after escaping slavery two years earlier, sees other Black people entering Fortress Monroe and not being returned.  He learns that the commander of the fort, Major General Benjamin Franklin Butler, has declared the Black people “contrabands of war”, which means he doesn’t have to return them to the Confederates.  When Scott tells Butler he can find the Confederate hideout, Butler sends him on a mission back into the woods where he’s been hiding.  Scott finds the Confederates gathered at a church, and the Union army attacks, thwarting the threat to the fortress.  As a reward, Butler writes a letter to President Lincoln making the case for Scott and the other contrabands.  His words play a part in what eventually becomes the Emancipation Proclamation.  Includes four pages of additional information about George Scott, Benjamin Franklin Butler, Fortress Monroe, and the contrabands, as well as a bibliography.  40 pages; grades 2-6.

Pros:  This well-written and engaging narrative tells a little-known Civil War story, illustrated with sepia-toned paintings that evoke the photographs from that era.  Seems like more should be written about Benjamin Franklin Butler, who went on to become governor of Massachusetts and was a leader in civil rights on many fronts.

Cons:  Apparently, “contrabands” was the term used for those who found refuge at the fortress, but it seems like a somewhat dehumanizing expression. 

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