Let My People Go: Bible Stories Told by a Freeman of Color

Let My People Go: Bible Stories Told by a Freeman of Color

4.5 2
by Patricia C. McKissack, Fredrick L. McKissack Jr., James E. Ransome, James Ransome

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"Come join me as I take you back to Charleston, South Carolina, to my father's forge in the early 1800's. Sit with me on the woodpile as he tells a tale of faith, hope, or love."
In this extraordinary collection, Charlotte Jefferies and her father Price, a former slave, introduce us to twelve best loved Bible tales, from Genesis to Daniel,


"Come join me as I take you back to Charleston, South Carolina, to my father's forge in the early 1800's. Sit with me on the woodpile as he tells a tale of faith, hope, or love."
In this extraordinary collection, Charlotte Jefferies and her father Price, a former slave, introduce us to twelve best loved Bible tales, from Genesis to Daniel, and reveal their significance in the lives of African Americans--and indeed of all oppressed peoples.
When Charlotte wants to understand the cruel injustices of her time, she turns to her father. Does the powerful slaveholder, Mr. Sam Riley, who seems to own all that surrounds them, also own the sun and moon? she wonders. Price's answer is to tell the story of Creation. How can God allow an evil like slavery to exist? she asks. Price responds by telling the story of the Hebrews' Exodus -- and shows Charlotte that someday their people, too, will be free.
With exquisite clarity, Patricia and Fredrick McKissack and James Ransome -- a Newbery Honor winner and all Coretta Scott King Award winners -- brilliantly illuminate the parallels between the stories of the Jews and African-American history. Let My People Go is a triumphant celebration of both the human spirit and the enduring power of story as a source of strength.
Our hope is that this book will be like a lighthouse that can guide young readers through good times and bad....The ideas that these ancient stories hold are not for one people, at one time, in one place. They are for all of us, for all times, everywhere.
--from the Authors' Note to Let My People Go

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this stunning achievement, the renowned husband-and-wife team sets 12 Old Testament stories in the context of early 19th-century South Carolina, illustrated with Ransome's glorious paintings. As the McKissacks state in their introduction, "The stories are timeless treasures, universally read and honored, but no group embraced the Hebrew heroes of old more than African Americans during slavery times." The dozen tales unfold as Price Jeffries, who won his freedom in a seaman's lottery, tells them to his daughter in answer to her questions about what she sees happening in the world around her. The collection opens as father and daughter encounter a constable for wealthy slaveholder Mr. Riley and Charlotte asks her father, "Do Mr. Sam Riley own the moon?" He responds with the story of creation and tells her, "Nobody can make a slave of the moon, the sun, the stars, or any part of what God created, no matter how rich they may be. God made something wonderful out of nothing. What human being can do that?" Through the characters of Charlotte and Price Jeffries, based on historical abolitionists, the McKissacks answer the toughest questions of this troubling period of American history with stories of faith. When Charlotte witnesses an African child's death on the auction block, she asks her father, "Why is it God lets one person buy and own another person?" He answers with the story of Eden and "how God let the first people make their own choices." The story of the courtship of Charlotte's parents ("a love worth waiting for") leads the way to that of Jacob and Rachel. Each Old Testament story builds upon the one before it, weaving the development of Charlotte's personal history and the Biblical stories into a seamless whole. The volume's design further integrates the interlacing elements: Charlotte's story is set in warm bluish type, the Biblical retellings in classic black. Ransome's remarkable portraits capture the full range of Charlotte's and Price's emotions, as well as the serene dignity of leaders such as Solomon and Moses and of Daniel in the lion's den. His version of dramatic Old Testament events, particularly his vision of the creation, are captivating. Readers will likely return to this extraordinary volume again and again, knowing that the answers to life's painful questions reside in the stories of faith that have comforted others for thousands of years. All ages. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
Twelve Bible tales are retold by a freeman of color, Price Jefferies, to his daughter Charlotte. The stories clearly show the similarities between the plight of the African-American slaves and the Jews. The approach the McKissacks have taken allows them to relate the Biblical stories that were the solace of many slaves and to delve as well into the issues of slavery and life in Charleston during the early 1800s. Ransome's illustrations beautifully depict Jefferies at his forge and in other facets of his life. In addition, he has painted glorious illustrations of scenes from the Bible-such as Joseph, at thirty, standing on the steps of Pharaoh's palace with his brothers kneeling before him, and dramatic pictures of Queen Esther. The stories are told in the speech of the day, yet there is no problem understanding the text. Notes and references round out the book.
School Library Journal
Gr 3 Up-A masterful combination of Bible stories and African-American history. Price Jefferies, a former slave but now a freeman of color, interprets the ways of God. He compares the experiences of slaves and their masters in early 19th-century Charleston, SC, to those of well-known figures of the Old Testament. Jefferies, a blacksmith, has a close and loving relationship with his daughter, Charlotte, and tells her, in his own simple but eloquent manner, the various Bible stories that help to connect the trials of the Hebrew people with their own. Every tale has an uplifting, hopeful, yet realistic moral: good and bad choices (Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel), forgiveness (Joseph), patient love (Jacob and Rachel), courage (Esther), and so on. Each one is beautifully intertwined with a problem or situation that the girl observes and about which she questions her father. The poignant juxtaposition of the Biblical characters and Charlotte's personal narrative is authentic and moving. Written in a straightforward style, the text alternates between blue typography (Charlotte's words) and black (her father's), in a handsome format. Unfortunately, in the story of Ruth and Naomi, the tribes of Israel are mistakenly described as being the ancestors rather than the descendants of the 12 sons of Jacob. The occasional illustrations are powerful oil paintings in rich colors, emotional and evocative. Included are introductory words from the authors, illustrator, and fictitious narrator; notes; and both historical and Biblical bibliographies. This fresh view of how the eternal truths of life span the centuries gives this work a special place among Bible story collections, books of virtue, and the history of American slavery, appropriate for any collection.-Patricia Pearl Dole, formerly at First Presbyterian School, Martinsville, VA

Product Details

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
8.80(w) x 11.20(h) x 0.70(d)
930L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 13 Years

Read an Excerpt

From Chapter To Slay a Giant

But thou hast saved us from our enemies,

and hast put them to shame that hated us.

In God we boast all the day long,

and praise thy name for ever."

The boy took careful aim and rushed toward the giant. He let the stone fly. Swoooooooh! It hit Goliath square in the middle of his forehead.

Goliath shook from head to toe, blinked his eyes, and keeled over like a rootless tree. Quickly, David rushed for a sword and chopped off the giant's head.

The Philistines scattered like snakes fleeing from fire when they saw that a mere boy had defeated the best among them.

Word spread quickly that David had killed the Philistine giant. The Israelites loved him and sang songs 'bout him. But David gave God the glory.

David the shepherd boy was a natural-born leader who would go on to become one of the greatest kings of Israel. During his long and glorious life, he had to slay many giants that loomed tall in the form of big, big troubles and great mistakes. How did he do it? Hear King David's voice, singing to us from the ages:

"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the

counsel of the ungodly,

nor standeth in the way of sinners,

nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord;

and in his law doth he mediate day and night.

And he shall be like a tree, planted by

the river water,

that bringeth forth his fruit in his season;

his leaf also shall not wither

and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper...

the way of the ungodly shall perish."

Text copyright © 1998 by Patricia and Fredrick McKissack

Illustrations copyright © 1998 by James Ransome

Meet the Author

Patricia C. McKissack is the author of many highly acclaimed books for children, including Goin' Someplace Special, a Coretta Scott King Award
winner; The Honest-to-Goodness Truth; Let My People Go, written with her
husband, Fredrick, and recipient of the NAACP Image Award; The Dark-Thirty, a Newbery Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Award winner; and Mirandy and Brother Wind, recipient of the Caldecott Medal and a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

Fredrick McKissack has nearly 20 years experience as a writer and an editor. His articles, op-eds, and reviews have been published in The Washington Post, Vibe Magazine, and others. He lives in Ft. Wayne, Ind. with his wife, Lisa and their son, Mark.

James E. Ransome’s highly acclaimed illustrations for Knock, Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me won the 2014 Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration. His other award-winning titles include Coretta Scott King Honor Book Uncle Jed’s Barbershop by Margaree King Mitchell; Deborah Hopkinson’s Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt; Let My People Go, winner of the NAACP Image Award; and Satchel Paige, written by his wife, Lesa. Mr. Ransome teaches illustration at Pratt Institute and lives in upstate New York with his family. Visit James at JamesRansome.com.

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Let My People Go: Bible Stories Told by a Freeman of Color 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The bible is very imparant to us in our lifes and yes god is real and you can go to heaven to be with god forever and ever
EGHunter01 More than 1 year ago
*Beautiful color illustrations *Words that will capture your heart and mind *Good for evening storytelling for youth or anytime for storytelling to youth **Must be careful of certain "artistic license" in which the stories have been altered from the Bible to suit the storytelling fashion. For example, on page 16 "Eve when she was alone, ..." - The Bible states Adam was by Eve when the serpent spoke to Eve. *A wonderful way to listen to the Bible stories