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My Name Is Henry Bibb: A Story of Slavery and Freedom
     

My Name Is Henry Bibb: A Story of Slavery and Freedom

by Afua Cooper
 

Often shocking, always compelling, Afua Cooper's novel is based on the life of Henry Bibb, an American slave who after repeated attempts escaped in 1841 to become an anti-slavery speaker, author and founder of a Black newspaper. Cooper takes painstakingly researched details about slavery and weaves an intimate story of Bibb's young life, which is overshadowed by

Overview

Often shocking, always compelling, Afua Cooper's novel is based on the life of Henry Bibb, an American slave who after repeated attempts escaped in 1841 to become an anti-slavery speaker, author and founder of a Black newspaper. Cooper takes painstakingly researched details about slavery and weaves an intimate story of Bibb's young life, which is overshadowed by inconceivable brutality.

At nine years old, Henry is separated from his mother and brothers and hired out, suffering abuse at the hands of cruel masters so severe he almost dies. Henry's courageous life is described in intimate detail and young readers will learn about everyday slave life on a plantation and in towns and cities, the coded language of slave escapes and the dangerous routes over land and water to safe houses.

As Henry Bibb moves from boyhood to manhood, he knows that one day he will "fly away" as in the old legend of the Africans who flew away to freedom. The first-person narrative, convincingly told in Henry's voice, traces Bibb's boyhood, marriage, fatherhood and the developing awareness of his bondage and his determination to break free of it or die.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
There are many slave narratives about exciting escapes, but few tell of a young person's suffering with the close-up personal detail of this fictionalized biography.—Booklist
Booklist
There are many slave narratives about exciting escapes, but few tell of a young person’s suffering with the close-up personal detail of this fictionalized biography.
Children's Literature - Leigh Geiger
Henry Bibb, a mulatto slave in Kentucky, published an autobiography in 1849, which detailed his cruel life of slavery and his courageous escape to Canada where he became a noted lecturer and newspaper editor in the anti-slavery movement. This compelling novel is loosely based on that autobiography. It focuses primarily on Bibb's early life from birth through adolescence, offering insight into the forces that led him to his escape and successful career. The author writes in a simple but powerful style that immediately places the reader in Henry's world. Because the book is small with fairly large print and relatively simple vocabulary, some children in the eight-to twelve- year-old range will technically be able to read it but they may find it too difficult to absorb emotionally. Henry and his brothers are all the product of his master's unwanted unions with his mother. While the sexual aspects are abstract shadows, the other brutal parts of Henry's life are vividly described. Because of his light skin, Henry is first put to work as a house slave but is resented by his white masters. As he is hired out to different owners, he suffers horrific abuse and degradation. At one point he almost dies as a result of his inhuman treatment. His suffering is even more palpable as the entire story is presented in first-person narrative; the reader is intimately involved. Readers will gain an appreciation of slave life on both town and country plantations. They will learn about the secret codes slaves used to discuss escapes and about the Underground Railroad. Reviewer: Leigh Geiger, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Cooper offers a fictionalized account of an important figure in African-American history. Henry, the son of a white Kentucky state senator and a mulatto slave, is given, along with his mother, to a motherless infant, Harriet White, by the child's grandfather. As a boy, he serves as a house slave for Harriet, but at age nine he is separated from his mother and half-brothers and hired out to other plantations where he is beaten, starved, and humiliated. Time and again he tries to escape, only to be recaptured. This first-person narrative shows Henry growing in knowledge of his surroundings and of escape routes, codes, and assistance. At age 17, he marries and fathers a daughter. Determined to raise her free, he escapes to Indiana, with a promise to return for his wife and child. Cooper gives her protagonist a compelling reportorial voice and determined personality. An epilogue tells a little more of Bibb's story, including the fact that he published Canada's first Black newspaper, The Voice of the Fugitive, and founded literary, antislavery, and debating societies. No source notes are included.—Kathryn Kosiorek, formerly at Cuyahoga County Public Library, Brooklyn, OH
Kirkus Reviews
Partnered titles explore the worlds of enslaved AfricanAmericans from a fictionalized firstperson perspective. The son of a White man who neither owned his mixedrace mother Milly nor acknowledged him, Henry is given to the master's infant granddaughter. Growing up, Henry endures many trials and tribulations on Harriet's father's rural Kentucky plantation, yet conditions there are better than being hired out. When he is hired by a judge in Louisville, Henry learns about "walking on water"-escape across the Ohio River into freedom. Inspired by the birth of his daughter, Henry finally escapes. Although the epilogue quickly summarizes his later work as an abolitionist, Henry's narrative suffers from its abrupt end. The companion, My Name Is Phillis Wheatley (9781553378129), is much better crafted, starting with her childhood in West Africa. An excellent and ageappropriate account of the Middle Passage leads to Phillis's arrival in Boston. After being sold into slavery, Phillis is educated, begins to write poetry and achieves international fame. Unlike Henry's story, which only explores his life as a slave, Phillis's narrative is truly a story of slavery and freedom. (Historical fiction. 1014)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781553378136
Publisher:
Kids Can Press, Limited
Publication date:
09/28/2009
Pages:
160
Sales rank:
1,344,578
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.80(d)
Lexile:
800L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

Afua Cooper is a scholar, author and poet who specializes in the history of slavery and abolition. Her books include My Name Is Phillis Wheatley, My Name Is Henry Bibb and The Hanging of Angélique: The Untold Story of Canadian Slavery and the Burning of Old Montréal.

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