Liberty Letters: Personal Correspondence of Hannah Brown & Sarah Smith, The Underground Railroad, 1858

Overview

The Liberty Letters series explores the lives of teens that courageously lived out their faith and commitment to God in challenging times. Using letters between good friends to tell the story, the series reveals the power of friendship, courage, ingenuity, and faith to make a difference in the key events of U.S. history.

In this book, two Quaker girls, Hannah Brown, granddaughter of the most active abolitionist in slave-holding Northern Virginia, corresponds with Sarah Smith, ...

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Overview

The Liberty Letters series explores the lives of teens that courageously lived out their faith and commitment to God in challenging times. Using letters between good friends to tell the story, the series reveals the power of friendship, courage, ingenuity, and faith to make a difference in the key events of U.S. history.

In this book, two Quaker girls, Hannah Brown, granddaughter of the most active abolitionist in slave-holding Northern Virginia, corresponds with Sarah Smith, daughter of 'conductors' on the Underground Railroad in the free state of Pennsylvania. Together, the girls assist a runaway South Carolina slave family on their perilous trip from Virginia to Canada on the 'freedom train.'

Liberty Letters is a tribute to America's foundation of faith and freedom. And now, a new generation can experience history as they discover how God works through ordinary people in extraordinary times.

Through imaginative and innovative products, Zonderkidz is feeding young souls.

Letters between two young girls, one from Goose Creek, Virginia, and her friend living in Philadelphia, chronicle their involvement in helping an escaped slave travel via the Underground Railroad to join her father in Canada.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
One of two books inaugurating the Liberty Letters series f0r tweens, this novel appears to share some of the trappings of well-established series (e.g., Dear America, American Diaries) in that it allows readers to approach American history via the voices of strong girl characters. Here, Sarah has moved to Philadelphia from Virginia, where her friend Hannah still lives. Much of their early "correspondence" revolves around religious thoughts and sentiments, with some awkward scene-setting to introduce other characters. Soon, they begin to discuss slavery and the abolitionist movement-it turns out that Sarah's parents are active in the Underground Railroad, as is Hannah's outspoken grandfather. Sarah urges Hannah to help her grandfather, but Hannah is scared and reluctant-until runaway slaves are obliged to seek refuge with her family. Unfortunately, neither girl's voice is distinctive nor is either particularly believable; both characters seem mouthpieces for adult points of view. The religious aspect of the story is handled with a similarly heavy hand, with faith presented as absolute. Readers who don't already share the girls' convictions (and the degree of those convictions) are unlikely to identify with their stories. Ages 8-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780310703501
  • Publisher: Zonderkidz
  • Publication date: 8/28/2003
  • Series: Liberty Letters
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 192
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Nancy LeSourd is an author, attorney, wife, and mother of two, who lives in the Washington D. C. area. She has a B.A. in political science from Agnes Scott College, a M.A. from Tufts University in secondary education with an emphasis on American History, and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center. A William Robertson Coe fellow in American history, she taught American history to middle and high school students. For more information, visit www.libertyletters.com

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Read an Excerpt

The Liberty Letters: Personal Correspondence of Hannah Brown and Sarah Smith

The Underground Railroad, 1858
By Nancy LeSourd

Zondervan

Copyright © 2003 Nancy Oliver LeSourd
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-310-70350-6


Chapter One

* * *

Goose Creek, Virginia

Third Month 17, 1857

Dear Sarah,

You have been on my mind constantly. I miss you so much. When will you and your family be able to visit us here at Goose Creek? I hope you will have occasion to visit this summer, for it has been much too long since we have been together-more than a year since we have seen each other. When Grandfather goes to Philadelphia to buy plantings for his nursery, I pester him to take me with him. Yet Mother and Father say I must stay in school and not be traipsing all over creation.

Sarah, you know me well. You know that my mind and heart are somehow bigger than Goose Creek, Virginia. I yearn to see the world. At least Grandfather lets me see most of Loudoun County. I have been helping him on his latest surveying project. He is updating his map of the Snickersville Turnpike and often takes me along to make notations. He and Joshua hold the chain and the compass while I carefully take notes of the measurements they call out, in Grandfather's surveyor's notebook. Ever since he published his map of Loudoun County-the one he did with your uncle four years ago-he has more mapmaking business than he can manage.

Remember when I last wrote about Joshua? He has become invaluable to both Uncle Richard and Grandfather. He works at the foundry most days. But whenever he can, Grandfather spirits Joshua away to help with the surveying. Grandfather says no one else holds a surveyor's chain as straight and tight as Joshua does. So you see, Sarah, it is rather convenient, don't you think, that I should go along to assist Grandfather with the note taking? Joshua makes me laugh. And he is rather handsome. I am glad he came to our village. He has no mother or father. Yet everyone here likes him so well. It is as if the entire village has adopted him. He has impressed Uncle Richard with his diligent work and quick mind. Grandfather enjoys his sense of humor as much as his chain-holding skills.

Speaking of Grandfather, I think he is most happy when he is on a towpath or road in his buggy with his viameter, measuring, calculating, plotting, and planning. He loves to be free. I think I am just like him.

Do ask your parents when you might come to Goose Creek. Many here ask about you. I wish you still boarded at Springdale School next door to Evergreen Farm. Then we could be together every day. I miss rushing home from school to visit with you. We had such glorious times.

Affectionately, Hannah

* * *

Goose Creek, Virginia

Third Month 26, 1857

Dear Sarah,

What an amazing sight! About one hour before sundown, Grandfather, Mother and Father, my younger brother David, and I gathered at the top of a nearby hill facing west. The almanac said there would be a full eclipse of the sun, but I was unprepared for anything so incredible. Imagine the sun being completely covered by the moon. A strange and wondrous sight indeed-although we were warned not to look directly at the sun. Doing so could burn our eyes and blind us.

Grandfather says God has many wonderful things to show us if we are watching. He says the trick is to remember that God's surprises far outweigh anything we can possibly imagine. Something to ponder, don't you think, my dear friend?

Your sun-and-moon-and-stars-watching friend, Hannah

* * *

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Fourth Month 9, 1857

Dearest Hannah,

I miss you, too! I also miss Springdale, Goose Creek, trips to Purcell's Store in your grandfather's buggy, and even young Israel, who teased me mercilessly. Is Friend Eliza Janney still teaching at Springdale? She taught about what matters in life: liberty for one and all.

Do you remember when she came from New York to teach at Springdale? There was much consternation in Leesburg that this northern-bred woman was teaching children antislavery ways. Of course, what did they expect from someone teaching at a Quaker school?

Is Principal Janney still traveling as much as ever? He has such a heart for sharing his wisdom at the Quaker meetings in the country. His writings are well received here.

How is your grandfather? Uncle Robert looks forward to their visits together. He often comments on what a fine mapmaker Friend Yardley Taylor is. You must share all your stories of your adventures with him.

Do tell me all that is going on there in Goose Creek.

Your devoted friend, Sarah

* * *

Goose Creek, Virginia

Fourth Month 15, 1857

Dear Sarah,

I received your good letter and will report to you all the Springdale news I have heard. Your beloved teacher, Friend Eliza Janney, has been spending much time taking care of her husband, Friend John. Do you remember that she married Principal Janney's son? He has taken ill with a severe cough and nothing done for him seems to help. The doctor frequently attends to him. His family often takes him to the springs in hopes that he will recover. You may wish to write Eliza, for she would be encouraged to know how she has influenced your life.

Today Grandfather, Joshua, and I spent the entire day in the buggy. We measured, remeasured, calculated, and laughed and laughed. It was an absolutely perfect day. The weather was glorious. It was exhilarating to be out in the clean spring air. As usual, I kept the notebook and carefully wrote down everything Grandfather called out to me as he and Joshua worked the chain and compass. Mathematics is not my favorite subject at school. Joshua and Grandfather can make calculations in their heads faster than I can write them down.

Joshua says he loves to spend time with Grandfather, because he is so talented. I have never thought of Grandfather that way. I know he enjoys many things. He enjoys his job delivering the mail from house to house. He enjoys his surveying and mapmaking. He enjoys plantings and tending his nursery with some of the most exotic plants one can imagine. Most of all, though, he enjoys his family. I always feel so loved when I am in his company. He does not think me dull or silly or childish. When I am with him, I feel as if I could do and be anything I wish. I think it is the same for Joshua.

Joshua has had many disadvantages. One would never know it, though, as he is so friendly and kind. He speaks of his future rather than the past. He talks with Grandfather about planting, mapmaking, surveying, working at the foundry, and inventing. He is excited about working with Uncle Richard on a new project-a special plow that will make tilling the soil much easier.

With every good thought toward you, Hannah

* * *

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Fifth Month 21, 1857

Dearest Hannah,

What a delight to read your letter! Oh, I do miss our times together. We had such fun. Father says that you are welcome to visit anytime. Ask your grandfather again if you might come with him. I have much to tell you.

Father, Mother, and I have been busy with our many activities and with making sure our packages are delivered safely. It is more dangerous now to be in the delivery business. Ask your grandfather to explain. I should close for now.

Your friend, Sarah

* * *

Goose Creek, Virginia

Sixth Month 2, 1857

Dear Sarah,

I asked Grandfather about your delivery business. It sounds quite mysterious. I was confused when I read your letter. I showed it to Grandfather this afternoon when we were in the buggy. After glancing at Joshua, who was rolling up the surveying chain, Grandfather whispered to me that we would speak about it later. He said I was not to say a word about this to anyone. On the way home, Joshua tried to make me laugh, but my mind was preoccupied.

This evening Grandfather asked me to come to the barn with him to brush down his horse, Frank. You remember Frank, don't you? He is such a solid horse, deserving of such a solid name. Frank suits him, don't you think? Anyway, Grandfather explained that there is a system called the Underground Railroad. He said it helps runaway slaves go from place to place until they reach freedom. He said many from our faith are involved.

Grandfather explained that it used to be a simple matter to help slaves escape across the Potomac River just 14 miles from here. They would take a short passage through the state of Maryland into your state of Pennsylvania, where they are free. But since the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, slaves are not safe until they reach Canada. Grandfather also said that anyone caught helping a runaway slave escape can be jailed. Then he brushed away some of the hay in Frank's stall and showed me a trapdoor.

Grandfather did not say a word. He just let me look inside with my lamp. I saw a bed of straw and a blanket. I stared inside for a long time. Then Grandfather lowered the trapdoor and spread the hay over it again. Frank nuzzled me, but I could not move. Things were whirring around in my head so fast, I thought I would faint. Grandfather put his hands on my shoulders and said, "The Lord said he came to proclaim liberty to the captives-to set free those in bondage. How can we do any less?"

We walked back to the house in silence. Then I lit my candle stub and came straight to my room to write this letter. Sarah, is your family involved? Are you part of this Underground Railroad? Are you in danger? Are we in danger? How long has Grandfather been hiding slaves right here at Evergreen Farm? I have so many questions. I cannot sleep. So I am posting this letter the first thing in the morning. Since Grandfather is the United States Postal Service mailman, I won't have to go far.

Your friend forever, Hannah

* * *

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Sixth Month 14, 1857

Dear Hannah,

I showed Mother your letter. She says we must not speak of such things by letter, especially by any letter posted in Virginia. She has a plan, however. Your grandfather arrives tomorrow. I will send back with him a special present for you. I am so sorry he will not let you come with him this time. Mother says that we will soon be together, but much needs to be done here. Mother and I attended sewing circle again this week. I have worked my fingers to the bone with sewing. The need for clothing increases. I will explain more later. Hannah, I am afraid that our friendship quilt must wait a bit longer. There is not time right now to work on it.

Have you seen Joshua lately?

Your devoted friend, Sarah

* * *

Goose Creek, Virginia

Sixth Month 25, 1857

Dear Sarah,

Your mother is so clever! No sooner had Grandfather arrived from Philadelphia than I inquired about my present from you. He smiled and handed me a little seedling in a clay pot. After a few moments he laughed loudly and said, "Hannah, you should see your face! It is all scrunched up trying to figure out the mystery of the seedling. Come with me." Then Grandfather led me to a table in the greenhouse and turned the pot upside down. All the dirt not attached to the roots rolled out onto the table, as did a small leather pouch. Inside were your letters!

What a magnificent idea your mother had to hide your letters in a pot, since Grandfather goes often to Philadelphia for his plantings. When I write back, Grandfather will carry my letters to you in a pot with cuttings from Evergreen that he is selling in Philadelphia. No one will ever guess our secret. From time to time, Sarah, we should send our regular letters in the United States mail, but if we must speak about things better left unspoken, this will do quite nicely.

Grandfather is full of stories of his time with your family. I only wish he had taken me with him.

Tonight Grandfather had a surprise for me. He had taken some of our best cuttings with him to Philadelphia to sell. There was one cutting from our ginkgo tree for which he found an interested buyer. The buyer did not have enough cash to purchase our cutting, but he did have with him a velvet pouch of pearls and other gems. Grandfather selected a perfect, luminescent white pearl in payment. Tonight he gave me the pearl. He said that when he saw it, he thought of my purity of heart and wanted me to have this as a token of his love for me.

Have you worked on our friendship quilt lately? I will take my leather pouch to bed tonight and read your letters by candlelight.

Affectionately, Hannah

* * *

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Sixth Month 21, 1857

Dear Hannah,

By now you have my letters in hand. Were you surprised? Mother thought of the plan and your grandfather approved. Father said that means we should expect to see more of your grandfather. I pressed them all to let you come as well, but your grandfather said your schooling comes first. I think he is weakening, though, because later I overheard him talking with Father. You may be able to accompany him on a trip to Philadelphia when he brings his latest map to be published.

One night Robert Purvis from the Antislavery Vigilance Committee arrived to speak with Father and your grandfather about a package that was delivered here for our care-a slave from Maryland who escaped two weeks ago. Father told your grandfather about how the Underground Railroad is operating and that it is so much more dangerous now to help slaves to freedom. I overheard them discussing bringing even more slaves across the Potomac, as time is short for such activities.

Your grandfather spoke of patrols with dogs trained to track slaves. He said that for several months now they have been coming by Evergreen routinely. Mister Purvis encouraged him to continue his efforts, because now more than ever the Railroad must operate quickly and carefully.

Continues...


Excerpted from The Liberty Letters: Personal Correspondence of Hannah Brown and Sarah Smith by Nancy LeSourd Copyright © 2003 by Nancy Oliver LeSourd. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2008

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    I thought I wouldn't like this. I've read Christian history fiction and found it dry. But this engaged my attention. As a former teacher, I wish I had had this series to use when my pupil ho-hummed about history.

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