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.

In a time of post-Revolutionary fervor in Richmond, Virginia, an imposing twenty-four-year-old slave named Gabriel, known for his courage and intellect, plotted a rebellion involving thousands of African- American freedom seekers armed with refashioned pitchforks and other implements of Gabriel’s blacksmith trade. The revolt would be ...

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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.

In a time of post-Revolutionary fervor in Richmond, Virginia, an imposing twenty-four-year-old slave named Gabriel, known for his courage and intellect, plotted a rebellion involving thousands of African- American freedom seekers armed with refashioned pitchforks and other implements of Gabriel’s blacksmith trade. The revolt would be thwarted by a confluence of fierce weather and human betrayal, but Gabriel retained his dignity to the end. History knows little of Gabriel’s early life. But here, author Gigi Amateau imagines a childhood shaped by a mother’s devotion, a father’s passion for liberation, and a friendship with a white master’s son who later proved cowardly and cruel. She gives vibrant life to Gabriel’s love for his wife-to-be, Nanny, a slave woman whose freedom he worked tirelessly, and futilely, to buy. Interwoven with original documents, this poignant, illuminating novel gives a personal face to a remarkable moment in history.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal - Audio
Gr 7 Up—JD Jackson brings to life Amateau's historical novel (Candlewick, 2012) set in Colonial Virginia prior to the Civil War with passion and a deep, emotional, and fully voiced performance that perfectly matches each turn of events. With almost poetic pacing, Jackson becomes Gabriel, a slave who has been educated alongside the slave master's son, but harshly and bitterly faces the wretched reality when he is removed from his mother's care and sent to Richmond. As he learns his trade as a blacksmith, he becomes inspired and, always believing he was meant to live free, works toward earning enough money to buy his freedom. As Gabriel ultimately becomes the leader in a planned slave rebellion, listeners are drawn into each heartbreaking and painful scene. Peppered with news articles, legal proclamations, and historical news accounts, Jackson effectively alters his voice so it's clear that the focus has shifted. There are scenes that are alternately quiet, loving, hateful, and intense, and Jackson portrays each with ease. Listeners' perceptions will be changed and they will be haunted at the book's conclusion, and left pondering one of the darkest and most disturbing times in history. This fictionalized biography of a rebel leader would be a fantastic supplement to classroom studies of the time period.—Stephanie A. Squicciarini, Fairport Public Library, NY
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.

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
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: 9781469206288
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Publication date: 9/11/2012
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.12 (w) x 6.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Gigi Amateau is the author of A Certain Strain of Peculiar, Chancey 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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