Come August, Come Freedom: The Bellows, the Gallows, and the Black General Gabriel

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An 1800 insurrection planned by a literate slave known as "Prosser's Gabriel" inspires a historical novel following one extraordinary man's life.

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Come August, Come Freedom: The Bellows, the Gallows, and the Black General Gabriel

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An 1800 insurrection planned by a literate slave known as "Prosser's Gabriel" inspires a historical novel following one extraordinary man's life.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Danielle Williams
Though the US is not unique in relying on slavery to build their industry, the heated debates and arguments that nearly destroyed the nation make slavery's history in the US a very dark period in the nation's history. Slaves' quest to be free appear throughout the history of slavery, but perhaps the most well-known uprising, and the one that came closest to succeeding, was Gabriel's uprising of 1800. Amateau presents a fictional account of Gabriel's life using historical documents to catalog Gabriel's life prior to the uprising. As an historical novel recounting the harsh conditions that many slaves were forced to endure, the author brings Gabriel to life, emphasizing his desire for freedom as well as his intelligence and drive to protect those important to him. The life of a slave was harsh and horrifying and Amateau's account of Gabriel's life and insurrection serve to highlight the horrible life slaves were forced to live. While the story of Gabriel's life is important and Amateau's historical novel provides a more than adequate introduction to the life of a slave, care should be taken when recommending this book to children. Reviewer: Danielle Williams
VOYA - Heather Pittman
This historical novel is based on the failed slave insurrection of 1800 planned by a slave known as Prosser's Gabriel. The book gives a fictional account of Gabriel's life, from his childhood on a Virginia plantation to his apprenticeship as a blacksmith in Richmond, to his return to the plantation and the failed rebellion attempt. His relationship with his beloved mother is explored, as is his intense love for Nanny, a slave on a neighboring farm whom he wants desperately to marry and free. Original documents are scattered throughout the work, reminding the reader that the story is based on fact. Bringing Gabriel's story to life is a fascinating concept. Using reproductions of original documents is an excellent technique. The writing in this novel is uneven, however. It is lovely and compelling at times, but many passages are confusing. The author does a wonderful job of displaying the horrors of slavery. Gabriel's relationship with the young master, Thomas Henry, is an excellent bit of characterization, explaining both his literacy and a piece of his thirst for freedom. Some sections are explained beautifully, while others lack detail to the point of being difficult to understand. The events surrounding the insurrection, for example, are hard to follow. Some of the characters are nicely drawn, while others are reduced to bold, grandiose quotations. This is an excellent idea for a book, and parts of it are truly well-written, but it does not follow through on its promise. This is almost a great novel. Reviewer: Heather Pittman
Kirkus Reviews
Inspired by the Haitian slave uprising led by black general Toussaint L'Ouverture, Gabriel, a literate Virginia slave and blacksmith, attempts to parallel that effort on his own turf. Gabriel and Thomas Henry Prosser, the master's son, were raised together since both were nursed at Gabriel's mother's breast, Gabriel rarely getting his fair share. But the power dynamics of slavery fully destroys their relationship as they age, until they are at odds with one another's goals--Gabriel, hoping to lead his people to freedom in the aftermath of the American Revolution; Thomas, aiming to squelch the effort. Based on a true story of planned rebellion by "Prosser's Gabriel," Amateau deftly tucks well-researched period documents into the narrative at opportune moments. Her use of language is both startling ("To Gabriel, Ma's whip marks resembled the earth between the tobacco hills, newly tilled and ready for planting") and gratifying ("…he went only to find the girl who could look into his smile and see the deep and secret life inside him"). As an adjunct to classroom study, readers will be drawn in by Gabriel's determination and motivations, including his devotion to his beloved bride, Nanny. Yet while historically accurate and beautifully written, the plotting ultimately lacks the tension or uncertainty that will drive readers to the finish. Despite inevitability, an anguished tale told with poetry and heart. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)
From the Publisher
Amateau’s prose is appropriately passionate, but it’s tempered with disciplined restraint and moments of startling delicacy. Although the subject of this title will call to historical fiction readers who appreciate such thoughtful works as M. T. Anderson’s Octavian Nothing (BCCB 11/06), teens who approach history with the poetic insight of Marilyn Nelson will also find Amateau’s chronicle rewarding.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)

The thrilling role of the unrecognized young hero will grab teen readers.

School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Inspired by Patrick Henry's proclamation, "Give me liberty or give me death," a young slave dreams of a better future. This epic, but quiet novel set against the backdrop of Colonial Virginia, follows Gabriel through manhood. Imagined from the life of a real person, this important narrative illustrates the early American experience often undocumented by history books. It begins by examining the complex relationship between slave and master, as Gabriel grows up alongside, not as an equal but as a companion to his owner's son, Thomas Henry. The relationship ultimately comes full circle, as Thomas Henry ultimately holds Gabriel's fate in his hands when they come of age. The book is also a love story, as Gabriel falls slowly but deeply in love with a young laundress while working as a blacksmith apprentice in Richmond. His love for Nanny drives him to hire himself out for wages, in hopes that he can buy her freedom and that they can be together as free people. His struggles to succeed, combined with the Revolutionary fever, inspire Gabriel to plan a revolt against the Commonwealth of Virginia. A suitable and interesting companion to any unit on the American Revolution, Come August, Come Freedom examines the many different freedoms inspired by its ideals. The novel also links the American fight for independence with the French Revolution and the slave revolt in Saint-Domingue. Some awkward language may lessen its widespread appeal, but the scope and topic make it a relevant choice for any school library.Maura Bisogni, Pratt Institute, New York City
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763647926
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 9/11/2012
  • Pages: 240
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 900L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.80 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Gigi Amateau is the author of A Certain Strain of Peculiar, Chancey of the Maury River, and Claiming Georgia Tate. She lives in Bon Air, Virginia.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 11, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Author: Gigi Amateau Published By: Candlewick Press Age Recomme

    Author: Gigi Amateau
    Published By: Candlewick Press
    Age Recommended: Adult
    Reviewed By: Arlena Dean
    Book Blog For: GMTA
    Rating: 4


    "Come August, Come Freedom: The Bellows, The Gallows, and The Black General Gabriel was really some read for me. As I continued my read I wondered if I could make it through it and I did. This author did a wonderful job with this storyline. I will say she did a great job with all the characters that really added much to "Come August, Come Freedom. I felt that this was a well done dialog of a fictional account of this conspiracy of a slave know as Gabriel Posser. This slave was born in 1776 in Virginia...later to be hung in late October 1800. It was not a happy novel for me but I did make it through
    because this author did a good job in bringing it to the reader mainly to be know by a few historians and some folklorists. Yes, I have even heard of this person and even the song 'Posser Gabriel'. Now
    this read is not for be aware of that in choosing the title. Do your research.

    I believe the author did a OK job with this story and if you are in for a read that may not have a happy ending but I am sure it may have happened. History like this have played this way for some of us.

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